Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Good decision

It is good that the Jamaican Government has agreed not to go along with suggestions by the Opposition party there, that the country exit CARICOM – the regional integration movement.

In taking that stand the Government has recognised the potential damage that withdrawing from CARICOM is likely to cause the English-speaking Caribbean’s largest island.

Foreign Affairs Minister A. J. Nicholson said that a withdrawal from CARICOM by Jamaica would affect benefits under the CSME – the Caribbean Single Market and Economy – that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, services and labour across the community, should they exit CARICOM.

He went further by suggesting that a withdrawal would in effect be preventing its nationals and companies from utilising the provisions under the CSME for free movement of skilled persons, capital, services and right of establishment.

When you really look at it, a number of Jamaicans are occupying senior positions in key institutions across the Caribbean. It is safe to suggest as far as this newspaper is aware, that there was no acrimony to their selection to the top positions.

The president of the Caribbean Development Bank is a Jamaican; the Head of the Office for Trade Negotiation is from Jamaica. Jamaicans also occupy the top positions in Caribbean Export, and the Trinidad and Tobago Stock Exchange is headed by a Jamaican.

In other words, these same institutions which are there to serve the interest of the entire Caribbean Community are headed by Jamaicans.

One can agree that like other integration movements around the world CARICOM does have its problems. Comprising some of the world’s smallest mini states, the integration movement in the CARICOM has experienced setbacks like implementation of agreements; issues with free and fair trade; subsidies to industries that give them a competitive advantage over those that do not benefit from such support; the free movement of labour; and to cap it all, the member states, with a few exceptions, are feeling the pains from the global economic crunch which prevents some states from honouring commitments.

Yet, CARICOM is not alone in this. The European Union, which is the world’s most durable integration movement, is having its problems and they did not start recently. The present UK administration has signalled its desire to reassess Britain’s participation in the EU; not so long ago the Maastricht Treaty was not embraced by all of the EU member states; and currently the economic woes facing Greece, Portugal, Ireland, Spain, and others have not only threatened the survival of the EU, but also its common currency the Euro.

Over in South America, Mercosur, which includes some of the big economies in the continent, continues to have its problems. These range from fallouts over trade, subsidies, and to political differences especially following the expulsion of Paraguay. Some difficulties also exist in the West African union.  

So that CARICOM, like the others, have to sort out the impediments that are holding up the process.

However, there are organs within CARICOM where member countries are allowed to raise issues that confront them. These include dispute settlement mechanisms, the Caribbean Court of Justice and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).

So withdrawal by any country, whether it is Jamaica, Grenada or any of the other member states, is not going to solve anything. What we desire at this time is the building of CARICOM rather than attempts to dismantle it.

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