August 27, 2008


FIX CARICOM: That's the problem
Web Posted - Wed Aug 27 2008
BY Sir Ronald Sanders
Source: Barbados Advocate

FOUR Caribbean leaders signed a Joint Declaration on August 14 in Trinidad to achieve the Single Economy by 2011 and appropriate Political Integration by 2013 in the Caribbean Community.

Just how the four leaders plan to accomplish these two feats is unclear, particularly as the only governments they could commit were their own; they could not speak for the other eleven governments of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM).

The four leaders were Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago, Tillman Thomas of Grenada, Stephenson King of St Lucia and Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines.

Manning did invite the President of Guyana, Bharat Jagdeo, and the Prime Minister of Barbados, David Thompson, to the meeting but they declined, sending their foreign ministers instead. Significantly, neither of the two foreign Ministers signed the Declaration, not even as observers.

However, the Barbados foreign minister let his government's position be known at a press conference on August 20th. He said Barbados' major responsibility is the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy by 2015 (to which governments have already agreed) and he wished any other union well. In other words, Barbados has no interest in being part of the Trinidad Declaration.

The government of Guyana has said absolutely nothing. Its silence can be interpreted as a lack of interest.

The Jamaica government was quick to state that while it respects their right to establish a political union, the decision by the four leaders has implications for the structure and, indeed, the future of CARICOM and a request would be made for the issue to be brought for discussions at the highest level of CARICOM.

The Jamaican concerns are shared by others. Among the governments that would be concerned are the Bahamas, and Suriname, who were not invited to the meeting and who had to be as surprised as anyone else to learn of the Trinidad Declaration by way of the media.

Three member governments of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica and St Kitts-Nevis which were also not invited to the meeting, would be particularly concerned because one of the objectives, as revealed by Manning, is to bring them into the arrangement of a Single Economy by 2011 and appropriate political integration by 2013. They would be right in feeling that they ought to have been consulted, before the Declaration was made.

Manning and Tillman tried to involve these three OECS members after the fact by flying into their countries to try to explain the Declaration. However, if the OECS countries are to join a single economy and appropriate political integration with Trinidad and Tobago, surely such a major undertaking ought to have been discussed by the OECS first and with the benefit of technical studies that would advise any decision that the leaders might make.

In the Declaration, the four signatory states undertook to move beyond the characterisation of CARICOM as being a grouping of sovereign states. This suggests that they want to move CARICOM into a single sovereign entity, a political community of some kind. However, that decision could not possibly be made by four member states without the concurrence of the other eleven countries.

The motivation for the initiative by the four, as contained in the Trinidad Declaration, is that they recognise the imperatives of responding in a more immediate manner to increasing changes in the international economic and political environment and the consequent need for the urgent re-organisation of our economies and governance arrangements for enhancing our development and beneficial integration into the global economy. The motivation is understandable and so is the action that is contemplated.

However, CARICOM does not now have effective governance arrangements because Heads of Government, with a few notable exceptions, such as Gonsalves and Manning, have refused to put in place a Caribbean Commission which would act as a supranational organ to implement decisions and be responsible for implementing policies for all member states in areas such as the Single Market, trade negotiations and crime and security.

So if CARICOM cannot respond in a more immediate manner to the grave challenges that confront its member states individually and collectively, it is because Caribbean leaders have refused to move, as the countries of the European Union (EU) did, to establish a Commission vested with authority in critical areas and by enforceable law to oversee and implement Community policies.

There is a continuing refusal to accept that sovereignty of individual Caribbean countries is merely notional. And, clinging on to the unrealistic notion instead of realistically pooling their sovereignty does nothing but retard their prospects for any semblance of economic and political autonomy in a highly competitive world.

The four countries will get nowhere with the vague objective of appropriate political integration by 2013 in the Caribbean community. Not because Jamaica will not accept it; none of the others will either. The word appropriate is pregnant with problems. What would be appropriate political integration? A federal system of government, a unitary community in which all previous sovereignties are merged, or just a set or agreements, enforceable by law, to co-operate in specific areas?

The frustration of the four leaders and their desire to do something to speed up change in CARICOM is understandable. But, it is very doubtful that this initiative in its present form will move forward. Even if the four decided to construct their own single economy (which would be a third circle of single economies after the CSME and the OECS Economic Union) achieving it would be difficult, and would break-up the OECS for the countries would have to choose between the EC dollar and the Trinidad dollar. Trinidad is unlikely to choose the EC dollar which would mean revaluing its currency and making its exports more expensive.

Of course, the four countries could opt to leave both CARICOM and the OECS to do their own thing. But that would be the worse of all worlds. CARICOM's governance is the problem. They should fix it, not construct another weak institution.

(The writer is a business consultant and former Caribbean diplomat.)
Responses to:


Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St. Lucia, St. Vincent & the Grenadines sign MoU
Tuesday, August 26 2008 @ 06:00 AM AST
Four regional Prime Ministers sign a Memorandum of Understanding last Thursday at The Diplomatic Centre, Prime Minister’s Residence, St Ann’s, pledging to establish a political and economic union among their countries. (L-R) Prime Ministers of Grenada, Tillman Thomas; ;Trinidad and Tobago Patrick Manning; St Lucia, Stephenson King and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr Ralph Gonsalves.
In 1962, one country, Jamaica, withdrew from a budding West Indian Federation, inevitably leading to its collapse.“One from ten leaves nought,” was the prophetic declaration by T&T’s then Prime Minister Dr Eric Williams.With T&T following Jamaica’s lead, the initiative established just four years before, was history.The Federation was established by the British Caribbean Federation Act of 1956 with the aim of executing a political union among its members.It comprised ten territories: Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Jamaica (to which were attached the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands as dependencies), Montserrat, Saint Christopher-Nevis-Anguilla (present day Saint Kitts and Nevis and Anguilla), Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and T&T.

Patrick Manning, Prime Minister, profound integrationist. That was how Dr Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, described T&T’s leader last week as four regional prime ministers talked about Caribbean unification.
Manning is attempting to resuscitate this initiative, which began in 1958 with the formation of the West Indian Federation which ended four years later.The announcement was made last Thursday at a meeting at the Diplomatic Centre, Prime Minister’s Residence, St Anns.Manning has already courted the prime ministers of Grenada, Tillman Thomas; St Lucia, Stephenson King and St Vincent and the Grenadines, Gonsalves.
The four prime ministers signed a Memorandum of Understanding backing Manning’s ambitious plan: to establish a Caribbean Single Economy (CSE) x modeled after the European Union (EU) by 2011 and to have political integration by 2013.By 2011, he will still be T&T’s elected leader and quite possibly the CSE’s champion.
Political journalist, Ricky Singh, said the announcement could be viewed with a “wide yawn.“Needless to say, none of the quartet that commendably favours regional political unity is known to have a national mandate to pursue political union in any form - confederation, federation, unitary state or else,” he said.
Is the time right for the Caribbean to be regionally integrated, politically and economically?
The “dust has cleared” from regional elections over the past year with new leaders being elected in Jamaica (Bruce Golding), Barbados (David Thompson) and Grenada (Thomas). Gonsalves has been in power since 2001 and King since 2005.“It is clear for the first time that we have leaders in the Caribbean who want to commit to political integration as opposed to anything else,” said Manning.
Asked government’s view on Jamaica, which would not agree to a political union in Caricom, Manning said:“We said that we don’t think that we will get to Caricom economic integration by 2015 in the form in which we want it to.”
Manning added that the issue was not just with Jamaica, but “several other countries.”Gonsalves noted that while some people may have “integration fatigue” it does not diminish the nobility of the cause.But the cause, 46 years in the making, is loosing the lusture of its nobility.
In 2003, Manning began looking at options to enhance regional integration. A consultation on Options for Governance to Deepen the Integration Process was held in T&T in February 13, 2003. This consultation yielded several recommendations which were considered by the 14th inter-sessional meeting of Caricom Heads of Government.
A major recommendation called for the establishment of institutions required to accelerate the pace of integration, in particular a Caricom Commission-type arrangement as proposed by the West Indian Commission in 1992. An expert group, chaired by Gonsalves, was established to make a proposal on how best to deepen relations.Manning’s announcement comes at a time when regional integration appears to have stalled somewhat as islands pursue their own nationalistic agendas. Caricom, one commentator noted, is little more than a “community of sovereign states.”
In June, Gonsalves said Caricom would soon be forced to transform itself from “a ramshackle political-administrative apparatus” that allows “several of its member states (to) jealously guard a vaunted and pristine sovereignty.”He blamed the “politics of a limited regional engagement in Jamaica, shackled by the ghosts from the Federal referendum; the politics of ethnicity in T&T and Guyana; a mistaken sense of uniqueness and separation among large sections of the Barbadian populace; the peculiar distinctiveness of Haiti and Suriname; and the cultivated aloofness from the regional enterprise by the Bahamas” for the present situation.
He said the realisation of a common monetary policy for Caricom, similar to the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and an integrated judiciary, is a distant dream as well.Manning said T&T “could not stay aloof” from the OECS countries as they make steps toward establishing a single economy.
Eric Williams, at the first meeting of Heads of Government of the Commonwealth Caribbean, held in T&T in 1963:“Small countries like ours encounter great difficulty in establishing their influence in the world dominated by power and regional associations. This general difficulty is aggravated in our case by centuries of subordination to outside control which has given rise to a view not uncommon outside of the West Indies that we are satellites by nature and exist only to serve as pawns to outside countries. We have, therefore, no alternative but to seek against the background of our common history and traditions, to make common cause against the unfortunate tendency to regard us for all time as hewers of wood and drawers of water for other people.”
“What we put to the meeting is that all the countries that so desire should seek to move to the creation of an economic space in the Caribbean by 2011,” he said.
Norman Girvan, international relations lecturer at the University of the West Indies (UWI), agreed that Manning’s initiative was a “rather ambitious one.” He said that the region needed to co-ordinate macro-economic policies, establish a monetary union, harmonise policies in labour and establish company law. This, he said, is difficult to achieve in the short space of time as wide consultation is necessary.
He said the lesson to be learnt from the establishment and success of the OECS, is the need to involve the population to the maximum.Girvan, in an article published in Antigua on June 30, titled “Caribbean: Regional unity losing steam, critics say” warned of a possible collapse of Caricom, if regional leaders failed to put in place mechanisms to enforce decisions regarding the integration process.
Girvan was quoted as saying that the 15-member grouping had become stagnant due mainly to a lack of implementing decisions.“I’ve been a committed integrationist all my life but I have to call it as I see be brutally frank and realistic about it, I see a real danger of disintegration. We are at a juncture,” he had said.“We’re still clinging to the insular sovereignty that, in my opinion, is largely fictitious because in the modern world, states of our size simply cannot expect to have any real sovereignty.“The forces of globalisation, the fact of our small size, the fact of our trade dependency, the fact of our military weakness, all of these things make it virtually impossible for our small island states to have any real sovereignty,” he said.
He admitted on Monday that Manning’s timing was a positive step.“It’s a start. It’s an intention to start. If you looked at the EU, it started with a couple of countries and different countries signed in at different points in time,” he said.Manning was expected to travel yesterday with Thomas to Antigua and Barbuda, St Kitts and Nevis and Dominica in a bit of shuttle diplomacy aimed at persuading their leaders to sign the MOU.
Professor Vaughn Lewis, former secretary general of the OECS, said that in the movement to Caribbean integration there were a long list of unavoidable errors.Lewis’ perception is that these errors can be avoided 40 years later.“All the odds are open. We have to investigate. Some of us have ideas about certain things and see what is the most appropriate at this time,” he said.
He said a political apparatus needed to be established to manage the single market and economy.“My own view is that the single economy we are looking for will not be able to proceed if we are using the same decision making tools of Caricom.”
He said that a political union, not envisioned until 2015, would revolve around two issues: how to make decisions effectively and how to present the region to the international community.
“The issue is whether we will have the ingenuity like the EU years ago to find an appropriate way to instigate a unified implementation apparatus,” he said.
Dr Kerry Sumar-Rai, lecturer at the University of the West Indies(UWI) said that while the talk of regional integration is being bandied about, there are several advantages and disadvantages to being economically and politically integrated.
Consider that in 1963, Jamaica’s reasons for withdrawing from the Federation included its geographical location, the fact that its share of the seats in the Federal Parliament was smaller than its share of the total population and it was believed that the smaller islands were draining Jamaica’s wealth.In 2008, T&T’s economy supercedes that of its neighbours and while the majority of them depend on Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez’s Petro Caribe Initiative, T&T is energy-independent.Gonsalves has criticised reports that the OECS is “ milking” T&T.Sumar-Rai said that the Government’s support of the Eastern Caribbean Gas Pipeline (ECGP) was a tool it could leverage to its neighbours to break Chavez’s stronghold on the Caribbean.
The US$550 million,176-mile pipeline is expected to be built from Cove Point, Tobago, to Barbados with the intention that it be continued through the French islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe and St Lucia, the other destinations for the pipeline.First mooted in 2002 and described as a pipedream, the pipeline was conceived to serve seven Caribbean islands: Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent, St Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe and Dominica all stressed by high fuel prices.
Manning has assured that a political union with countries of the OECS would not be inconsistent, although such countries have signed on to the PetroCaribe Initiative.“It is not inconsistent. T&T took actions to facilitate the signing on the PetroCaribe,” Manning said.Sumar-Rai said that issues surrounding economic integration would have to include a meaningful dialogue on sharing of resources.Politically, he noted that several of the Caribbean countries have both a prime minister and a president while Guyana has an executive president.He pointed out that if the Caribbean was united in the 2008 Beijing Olympics rather than entered as individual countries, it would have present a formidable team.The most obvious issue, for Sumar-Rai, though, is how would the smaller islands react to T&T’s entrepreneurs having access to their markets.
“How do we find a balance?” he asked.Lewis said that there needs to be a rationalisation of what exists: air travel, security and maritime relations.“These are the realities of changing regional economy,” he said.
Canute James, acting director of the Caribbean Institute of Mass Communications (Carimac), University of the West Indies (UWI), Mona, Jamaica, and former Financial Times writer, said that regional integration would work efficiently if there is:
1. Free movement of capital: for example, getting the regional stock exchange up and functioning properly;
2. Free movement of skills: which would create a region-wide job market;
3. Investment treaties and common fiscal incentives so businesses can find the optimal location based on the type of business they do;
4. Intellectual property rights agreements;
5. A single currency managed by a regional central bank or currency board. Ironically, the OECS has this with a common central bank.
6. Common exchange rate policies. Caricom countries now have a range of free floats (Guyana), managed floats (Jamaica) and fixed parity (Barbados and OECS).
7. Eliminating wide economic development differences. Per capita income of $7,500 in Barbados is three times that of Jamaica and 30 times that of Haiti.
8. A body to arbitrate on trade disputes among members. This is established with the Caribbean Court of Justice, to which T&T is not fully signed.


Caricom under threat?
Source: Jamaica Observer
Wednesday, August 27, 2008

The extraordinary initiative launched by Mr Patrick Manning, prime minister of Trinidad and Tobago, has raised the sinister spectre of a potential Caricom schism.

Mr Manning, without any apparent prior consultation with the Conference of Heads of Government, invited the prime ministers of St Vincent, Grenada, St Lucia and ministers of foreign affairs from Guyana and Barbados, also Caricom's secretary general Mr Edwin Carrington and director general of the OECS Mr Len Ishmael to discuss a coalition of Eastern Caribbean States to culminate with political union in 2015.

Notably absent, along with Suriname and Haiti, was Jamaica, which had neither Mr Golding nor the minister of foreign affairs Ken Baugh in attendance. Either Jamaica was not invited, or the Trinidadian invitation was declined. However, besides the obvious breach of protocol, the meeting carried a subliminal contemplation of "schism". The group is scheduled to meet shortly with the governments of Antigua and Barbuda, Montserrat, Dominica and St Kitts and Nevis to discuss the initiative further.

Throughout their press releases, the group emphasised that their agenda would not affect the current structure of Caricom as established by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. Eventually, this would have to be determined by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), which has responsibility for interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

The initiative could have been prompted by frustration with the inordinately slow progress of the CSME that after 35 years since the signing of the Treaty Establishing the Caribbean Community, there is still no sign of the CSME becoming a complete functioning reality. The Eastern Caribbean states perceive Jamaica as "special", meaning not exactly in step with their objectives and goals.

It has long been surmised that with its growing energy wealth and economic strength, Trinidad and Tobago may decide to act independently and demit Caricom membership in pursuit of closer ties with the Southern Cone countries. However, it is unlikely that such a move would be supported by Trinidad and Tobago's private sector, which relies heavily on the Caricom market and Jamaica in particular, for its continued prosperity. Likewise, the extensive Trinidadian investment in Jamaica would strongly militate against such a fundamental redirection of overseas trade. Even now, it's doubtful if the Trinidadian private sector supports the recent initiative.

Caricom was modelled on the Treaty of Rome 1957 that created the European Economic Community which developed into the European Union, now numbering 27 countries with the future prospect for further expansion. The EU has established the European Parliament, the European Central Bank, the European Court of Justice and the European Commission - the executive branch, and is in the process of reformulating its constitution which was rejected earlier by some members for various reasons.

In the Caribbean, the significant stumbling block has been political integration, which many see as essential if Caricom states are to function and progress as a united region. So far, the most cogent proposal has been to follow the EU structure by appointing a Caribbean Commission comprised of three or four commissioners endowed with executive authority to oversee implementation of decisions arrived at by the Conference of Heads of Government. By this method, Caricom would maintain forward movement avoiding the present malaise created by years of procrastination and vacillation. To date, this proposal has not been accepted, leaving the region in an apparent state of suspended animation that may have contributed to Trinidad's pre-emptive action, the purpose of which is stated to be: "collaboration towards achievement of a Single Market and Economy and Political Integration".

Trinidad's initiative could prompt Jamaica to consider its possible exit from Caricom. Significant areas of the Jamaican private sector support this radical prospect. By no means least is the yawning trade deficit that Jamaica has with Trinidad and Tobago, being the principal receptacle for Trinidadian manufactured goods and services. By comparison, the number of Jamaican firms operating in Trinidad is minimal, when compared with Trinidad-owned entities in financial services and manufacturing operating in Jamaica which provide employment, tax revenue and in many cases, very good products and services.

Still, the belief exists within the Jamaican private sector that Jamaica can stand and prosper independently, despite a debt to GDP ratio of around 132 per cent, flat goods production for both export and domestic market, as yet an uncontrolled crime scene and a critical unemployment level.

In the future absence of border taxes in compliance with the EPA, national revenue would be derived principally from diaspora remittances, tourism, maritime trans-shipment activity and communication call centres. The list is not exhaustive. For example; Jamaica, it is claimed, with the removal of the CET, could import rice, oil, natural gas, cement and manufactured goods cheaper from extra-regional sources while maintaining effective food security. Given Jamaica's precarious economic situation, there are still those who believe that economic viability in today's globalised world can yet be achieved by going it alone.

It is notable that Professor Vaughn Lewis, one of the critics of the EPA, together with Professor Norman Girvan and Ambassador Havelock Brewster, has been appointed to prepare a study on a possible political union involving the emerging Eastern Caribbean coalition of nano states.

It is both urgent and imperative that Jamaica and the Trinidad and Tobago government clarify the reason for Jamaica's absence at the meeting in Port of Spain, along with a fuller explanation of the initiative.

August 16, 2008

Make a firm decision!

Commentary: Belize and the Commonwealth countries must decide which court should have the final say
Published on Friday, July 25, 2008
Sorce: Caribbean Net News, Cayman Islands
Print Version

By Wellington C. Ramos In most of the English-speaking Caribbean countries there has been a significant increase in the number of murders that are being committed weekly. Especially in countries such as Jamaica, Trinidad, Guyana and Belize. The governments of these countries are so baffled and confused about this situation that they are making all type of efforts to stop these senseless killings.
The problem is that in all these countries the last deciding legal body is the Privy Council in London. In these countries they have a national Supreme Court and an Appeals Court. These courts have been sentencing murderers to death but when most of these cases are appealed to the Privy Council in London, the sentences are reversed and the execution of capital punishment is terminated or downsized to manslaughter due to some technicalities.

Born in Dangriga Town, the cultural capital of Belize, Wellington Ramos has an M.A. in Urban Studies from Long Island UniversitySome of the legal experts are pushing for the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), a regional court, to become the final court for all decisions. However, some legal experts in Belize and the other Commonwealth countries are against that change. They probably fear that if the last decision is given to a national court in their respective countries, there is a strong possibility that some of their nationals would be executed for political reasons despite the fact that they were innocent.
While these countries are not making any decision as to which way to proceed, their citizens are living in fear due to the continued increase in the amount of murders in their countries and the possibility of losing a loved one or a friend next is increasing. In Belize the murderers are bold and brazen because they are executing people in broad daylight without any fear or respect for the laws of our country.
The issue of capital punishment is a controversial topic not only in Belize but throughout the entire world. There will always be people who are in favour and against capital punishment. There will also be statistics that support and dispute the impact capital punishment has on the increase or decrease in the number of murders that are being committed in every country. In my five years when I was a police officer in the country of Belize, I have never seen Belize in such a state of fear. When we had capital punishment enforced, our murder rate was so low that, when we had a murder, we all could attend the funeral and sympathise with the family. Today, there are so many murders being committed in a week that we have to choose which funeral to attend.
I am not a legal expert and it does not take a legal expert to come to the conclusion that we should consider solving this problem now. The governments of the Commonwealth nations and the English-speaking Caribbean, including Belize, can put a referendum question to their citizens to decide which court they want to have the last say on all legal matters in their country. They will then choose between the Privy Council in London, the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) and the Belize Court of Appeals. I would prefer the Belize Court of Appeals being the last court to decide on all maters affecting my country. I am a nationalist Belizean and I cannot see another country’s court system deciding the final decision on pertinent issues such as these.
The case of Michael Ashcroft has caused me to believe that he will do everything to avoid our national courts. This is a case that we should take seriously even though it is only dealing with a financial dispute. If he becomes victorious in London, it will set a major precedent and have wider implications because it will give the Privy Council the power to derail many laws passed by our House of Representatives. What does the word independence mean if we are not a sovereign state? It would be meaningless and there should have been no reason why we sought it. If any person or group of persons enter into an agreement with any government and they feel that their rights were infringed or violated, they could go to the International Court of Justice to seek redress.
I think the Privy Council’s role in the Commonwealth nations judicial system, is spelled out in their nation’s constitution. This role should be redefined because this arrangement we have in place is not working in the best interest of our country and the Commonwealth nations.

CCJ sets hearing November 10

CCJ sets hearing on complaints against Guyana published
Friday July 25, 2008

The Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) has adjourned to November 10 hearing of an application by the Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) and the TCL Guyana Incorporated (TGI) for leave to appear as special parties to a court matter filed against the Guyana Government.

Historic sitting

In an interim ruling, the seven judges described the proceedings as "historic" since "this is the first matter in which the Caribbean Court of Justice has been called upon to exercise its original jurisdiction".

The applicants had gone to the CCJ for special leave to appear as parties seeking compensation and/or injunctive relief from the Guyana Government after alleging a breach by Georgetown of the provisions of Article 82 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which oblige Guyana to establish and maintain a common external tariff (CET) on cement imported into that state from third states.

They argued that the imposition of the CET at the rate of 15 per cent on imports of cement from third states is of great commercial benefit to them because of the protection thereby afforded to their products.

Competitive advantage

TCL and TGI also said that when the CET is imposed by Guyana, they enjoy a competitive advantage over imports of cement from third states which do not qualify for Community treatment in accordance with the treaty.

But, according to the two companies, they do not now enjoy this competitive advantage because the Guyana Government in January 2007 suspended the implementation of the CET on imports of cement into that country from third states.


In response, Guyana's Attorney General Doodnauth Singh admitted that the Bharrat Jagdeo government had suspended implementation of the CET on cement and that the Caribbean Community's Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) had not authorised any suspension in respect of the relevant period.

But, he said, that the suspension was justified because of the critical shortage of the commodity and in light of Guyana's urgent developmental needs as a "dis-advantaged country" pursuant to Article One of the treaty.

August 01, 2008

CARICOM most successful behind EU

OAS assistant secretary general speaks of advantages offered by Caribbean countries
Published on Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Print Version
Source: Caribbean Net News

Touting the benefits Florida business leaders could derive from investing in the Caribbean, Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin argued that the region’s trading arrangements offer prospects for expanded market for their products and services. Calling the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) the most successful integration system after the European Union, Ramdin highlighted the Single Market to enhance business promotion and entrepreneurship. He said the Caribbean Court of Justice as CARICOM’s highest court of appeal “is another significant step in providing judicial certainty to individuals, business community and nations.”

OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin. OAS PHOTOThe State of Florida needs to unite on an agenda for the Caribbean. “It is not only in the interest of the Caribbean, but also in your own interest,” Ramdin declared at the weekend, in his keynote address to the second annual meeting of the World Affairs Council and the World Trade Center of Tampa Bay, Florida. City of Tampa mayor Pam Iorio introduced the OAS Assistant Secretary General to the guests.
“For the State of Florida in general and for Tampa in particular, given the proximity to the Caribbean, it is important to strengthen political and economic relations and to work towards a comprehensive agenda of collaboration, not only in trade, but also in culture, education, and other areas,” said Ramdin. “There are opportunities, but if these are not used or if the relationship deteriorates because of economic problems, there will be also risk.”
His address was entitled “New Trends in the Americas: Focus on the Caribbean” and it was delivered at an event where Rick Murrell, Chairman and President of Tropical Shipping Lines, received this year’s International Commerce Award for outstanding contribution to promoting international trade. Hailing the honoree, Ramdin also cited Murrell’s “important contribution to the economies of the Caribbean.”
Ramdin noted CARICOM free trade agreements with the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, and negotiations for preferential trading with Canada to become a full-fledged free trade agreement. He added that a longstanding preferential economic trade agreement with the European Union has been re-negotiated into an Economic Partnership Agreement. In addition to proximity, the OAS Assistant Secretary General said the Caribbean region offers potential Florida investors advantages of language, comparable legal systems and relative peace.
Overall, the investment climate is generally an inviting one, he stated. “Taking advantage of these programs could be a good win-win for Tampa and the Caribbean in bringing home the advantages of an integrated market with commercial links and new personal relationships on which to build a long-term, stable market,” said Ramdin. “Tourism, health services, value-added agriculture, high-tech services, financial services; energy products, and cultural items for the large Caribbean diaspora represent key sectors for development in the Caribbean,”
Ramdin told the business leaders. “Eco-tourism and cultural tourism are on the rise. Agriculture is being expanded for high-value products such as cacao, coffee, limes, mangoes and coconuts for export," he explained.Major donors such as the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, the British Department for International Development and others are helping to fund programs to upgrade the Caribbean’s trading infrastructure, Ramdin stressed. “This creates another type of business opportunity for companies such as those you have here in Tampa.”
These donors will be giving the Caribbean special attention in the build up to the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which will be held in April 2009 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. This will be the first meeting of the new US president with his 33 counterparts in the Americas and an excellent opportunity for the launch of new programs to assist the Caribbean. “Those companies who have thought ahead and have products and services ready to link with the region will have a jump on the competition and be able to take advantage of this “tipping point” in the Caribbean.”
Ramdin accentuated the OAS’s activities, telling his guests that the organization’s “ultimate objective… is to promote and contribute to an environment of peace and stability, so as to create conditions for social and economic development in the Western Hemisphere.” He identified as central issues for the hemisphere the consolidation of democracies that respond effectively to citizens; maintaining fiscal responsibility and economic stability; improving transparency; fighting entrenched poverty as well as inequality; significantly reducing crime; improving the environment; and creating opportunities for young people to thrive.