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Governor-General, His Excellency the Most Hon. Professor Kenneth Hall, has called for the strengthening of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) to enable it to function as “a genuine regional instrument for the conduct of external trade negotiations.”
Professor Hall, who was speaking at a public lecture held at the Hilton Kingston Hotel last night (March 28) on the topic: ‘CARICOM – Current Status and Future Prospects,’ said that member states must develop a united approach in trade negotiations at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) level and in dealing with trading blocs such as the European Union.
“The protection of our interests in the trade negotiations requires that the region speak with one voice in international trade,” he stated, adding that, “CARICOM could no longer afford to dissipate its energy and resources by insisting on very small national representation, instead there is need for a formula to vest that authority in the CRNM as an expression of the exercise of collective sovereignty.”
In respect of the way forward, the Governor-General pointed to the need to accelerate the pace of development, by mobilising the resources and capabilities of the region in an integrated framework.
Noting that there has been renewed interest in production integration as an important strategy for optimising development, he said that such a strategy held optimistic possibilities for significantly altering the pattern of intra regional trade.
Turning to the issue of globalisation, Professor Hall underscored the importance of the Caribbean not remaining an isolated region, but to play a larger role in the international community and “thus to be in a better position to defend our interests.”
“We cannot remain a diplomatic cocoon defined by the geographical limits of our region,” Governor-General Hall stressed, proposing that CARICOM pursue a policy of “concentric diplomacy based on different levels of engagement and involving the wider Latin American region, the hemisphere system, and ultimately, the international community as a whole.”
To this end, Professor Hall said that CARICOM must relate to important changes that have taken place in several countries on account of recent elections.
“We will need to relate to these changes at the level of the individual countries, while at the same time, seeking to promote increased trade and economic links with other integration arrangements such as the Andean Group, but notably with MERCOSUR, which has expressed an interest in promoting closer links with CARICOM.”
The public lecture was organised by the CARICOM Legal Affairs Committee as part of activities to mark its 9th ordinary meeting. Representatives of several member states are in the island for the two-day meeting, which concludes today (March 29).
Among the topics for discussion are: crime and violence, the establishment of the Caribbean Court of Justice, and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).