Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Guyana,
Suriname and Trinidad Tobago, the six CARICOM member
states, which adopted the Single Market on January
1, yesterday (January 30), signed the formal declaration
signaling the launch of the CARICOM Single Market
(CSM), at the University of the West Indies, Mona
Member countries of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean
States (OECS), Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada,
St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and
the Grenadines also signed declarations signaling
their intent to join by the end of June this year.
The adoption of the CSM makes CARICOM the newest trading
bloc to join the approximately 194 other trade blocs
on the world market.
CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington in his
remarks, said the move was a historical and unprecedented
one. He said the formalizing of the CSM gave the region
an opportunity to celebrate the progress made since
the 1989 Grand Anse meeting and the signing of the
Treaty of Chaguaramas, which paved the way for the
establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy.
Prime Minister of Barbados, Owen Arthur, who has responsibility
for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME),
while hailing the move, said the immediate challenge
would be to put mechanisms in place to ensure that
the CSME did not become “a permanent coalition
of unequals, but that its benefits are shared by all”.
He called on leaders to make the CSME a recognizable
influence by enabling it to add value to Caribbean
development by achieving food security on a regional
basis and inserting a regional economy into the global
economy, among other things.
Mr. Arthur said the CSME represented the most effective
means by which the region’s individual economies
could be successfully integrated into the evolving
global economic system on terms that would enable
it to minimize the costs and dislocation that could
ensue from the integration, while maximizing the potential
He stressed that CARICOM could not succeed in the
present global environment if it spoke in a “weak
and ineffectual voice”. He said the external
challenges facing the Community gave special urgency
to the thrust to create the CSME in the “shortest
Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of the Republic of
Trinidad and Tobago and Chair of the Conference of
Heads of Government of CARICOM, urged member countries
to build on the achievement, noting that more remained
to be done to achieve the single economic space that
was eventually envisioned.
“We must not fail to meet the deadline of 2008
for the establishment of the CARICOM Single Economy.
This is of utmost importance,” Mr. Manning stated.
Furthermore, he said it was necessary to co-ordinate
and harmonise economic policies, interest rates, laws
and tax regimes in order to create more even development
across member states and enter more effectively into
trading arrangements and economic links with other
countries and regional groups.
Noting that poverty and underdevelopment, aided by
the international arms and drug trade, had increased
violent criminal activity in many Caribbean countries,
he said focus must be placed on disadvantaged groups
to create a fully inclusive community.
Prime Minister Manning said there was also a greater
need for the provision of skills training for unemployed
young people, as part of a poverty alleviation programme;
the modernization of education policies, improved
and more accessible healthcare and housing as well
as improved national and regional security.
Chairman of the OECS and Prime Minister of St. Vincent
and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonsalves in his remarks,
said the OECS was fully committed to the process of
regional integration, despite the fact that its members
would not sign on fully until June 30. He said the
event was more than a symbolic one and marked instead,
a milestone in the forward journey of Caribbean civilisation.
The OECS is a nine-member group comprising Antigua
and Barbuda, Grenada, Montserrat, St. Kitts and Nevis,
St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Commonwealth
of Dominica and associate members, the British Virgin
Islands and Anguilla. The associate members are not
signatories to CARICOM.
In keeping with the global trend, CARICOM inaugurated
the Single Market on January 1.
The CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which
is expected to be fully implemented in 2008, seeks
to go further than establishing a Free Trade Area
(FTA). It seeks to establish a Single Market and Economy,
which will ultimately mean not only the removal of
tariffs and special treatment amongst each other,
but also the harmonization of tax and social regimes.
To achieve this goal, CARICOM has earmarked US$70
million to be used over a 10-year period.
With the gradual removal of traditional preferential
trading arrangements with the United Kingdom (UK)
and the European Union (EU) under the current World
Trade Organisation (WTO) regime, the CSME has become
vital to the survival of the Caribbean market.
CARICOM member states, inclusive of Montserrat, St.
Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Saint
Lucia, Grenada, Belize, Antigua and Barbuda, Jamaica,
Barbados, St. Kitts and Nevis, Guyana, The Bahamas
and Haiti - signaled their awareness of this reality
as early as 1965 when the Caribbean Free Trade Association
(CARIFTA) was crafted by the Premiers of Barbados,
British Guiana and the Chief Minister of Antigua and
Barbuda. As the integration drive deepened, CARICOM
was formed out of the 1973 Treaty of Chaguaramas.
In 1989 at Grand Anse, Grenada, the decision was taken
to further deepen the integration process by establishing
the CARICOM Single Market and Economy. The Treaty
of Chaguaramas was also revised during this meeting.
Because of its internal political situation, Haiti
has, for the most part, been outside of the ambit
of CARICOM activities. Bahamas, although a CARICOM
member state, is not a signatory to the CSME, while
Montserrat, a British dependency awaits the necessary
instrument of entrustment from the UK in order to