Barbados has called on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries to move ahead with efforts at deepening the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of skills, goods, labour, and services across the 15-member grouping.
Addressing the 47th Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) meeting that ends on Friday, Barbados Minister of Foreign Trade, Sandra Husbands, told her fellow trade and economic affairs ministers, that while the CSME has challenges, there are opportunities that must be seized, especially if the Community is to become economically resilient.
“Economic resilience must be one of our priorities and win-win must be our goal. We need to organise our production activities and integration,” she said.
Barbados has lead responsibility for the CSME within the quasi-CARICOM cabinet and Husbands noted that progress towards the full implementation of the CSME was made at the last CARICOM summit held in Jamaica in July.
CARICOM leaders are to hold a special summit in Trinidad and Tobago next month to discuss the CSME.
“We must move the CARICOM Single Market and Economy forward. There are challenges but there are opportunities and we must seize them all,” Husbands said, even as she noted that regional countries must work as one if this is to be achieved.
“We’re not 15 members haggling and negotiating to create benefits for our countries rather we are sister territories striving to manage our resources and opportunities to generate accelerated value and benefit which we share for our mutual benefit.”
“It is clear that we are in a competition with the rest of the world. CARICOM is one; no longer can we afford to see ourselves as fifteen. Our very survival depends on our identifying our common interest, and acting as one in common cause to achieve our objectives.”
Husbands also called for a stronger COTED, which promotes trade and economic development of the CARICOM and oversees the operations of the CSME.
“Space must be created for us to deliberate on making the COTED the most revered organ in the Community,” she noted.
The CSME is among the main items at the meeting here with the ministers also expected to deliberate on the direction of CARICOM’s External Trade Policy and the region’s trade relations with the United Kingdom post-BREXIT.
“Each one of us is aware that the trade is skewed. The vast population of the agenda with requests for suspension of the Common External Tariff reflects the tremendous lag in moving forward on a production cooperation initiative,” Husbands said.
“This would generate jobs, increase trade and boost government revenues and GDP. Instead everyone wants their own beer factory and no one produces towels or linens for the millions used in our homes and hotels. This indicates that we need to organise our production activities and integration. Many opportunities are being lost. These are strategic discussions with which we as Ministers should be grappling,” she told delegates.
CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque said the meeting was taking place “as we are witnessing uncertain times in international trade affairs.
“The budding trade wars, the continued indeterminate nature of Brexit and the threat to the global rules-based trading system all have implications for our Member States”, he pointed out. They serve to emphasise that agreement on, and implementation of, our collective trade and economic policies assume even greater importance if we are to safeguard our interests in the global arena and achieve the objective of improving the lives of our citizens”, he added.