Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders have agreed to move forward “with alacrity” to ensure the full implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), the grouping’s new chairman, Prime Minister Gaston Browne has said.
“I would say that there is full commitment [but] from time to time you are right some countries go faster than the others and that is recognised within the Community,” Browne told reporters last week Tuesday at the end of the two-day virtual summit of regional leaders.
He said even within the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) for several years, those member states would have enjoyed “greater functional cooperation and would have even moved towards an economic union in 2011 in which we have free movement in terms of people and free movement in terms of goods.
“So in essence a previous conference would have agreed that where you have that type of enhanced cooperation that I should be encouraged and whereas some more work needs to be done that enhance cooperation it is understood that countries from time to time will have enhanced cooperation and even have bilateral arrangements to help strengthen the operations of the CSME.”
But he said” at the same time with that enhanced cooperation the whole idea is to make sure that the salient objectives of the CSME are not undermined in any way, but if anything they will compliment or amplify the acceleration of the CSME and the overall objectives of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas” that governs the regional integration movement.
Browne told reporters that the CSME, which allows for the free movement of goods, skills and labour across the region, has been identified as “the platform that we consider to be critical to rebuild and transform our member states post-COVID-19.
“We agreed also that work to achieve full implementation of the CSME requires urgent action by Community Organs, cabinets of member states, the CARICOM Secretariat, the private sector and other stakeholders,” he said, adding that a special meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will be held urgently to consider proposals for immediate action on CSME implementation.
At the start of the two-day summit, Browne, who took over the chairmanship from Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley, said new global realities should encourage the region to move more urgently with the implementation of the CSME.
“We can no longer afford the luxury of delaying approval of key instruments such as the Financial Services Agreement, Investment Policy and Incentive Regimes and the Development and Regulation of a Regional Securities Market. The full operationalisation of the CSME is required for the transformation of our economies and to fight for a robust post COVID recovery. “
The communique issued Tuesday, said that the leaders had adopted the “St Ann’s Declaration on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy” to take action at the national level to advance the regional integration agenda, have for the most part not materialised;
The Declaration notes that the regional leaders have reiterated their conviction that CARICOM integration and particularly the CSME continue to be important for the growth and development of the member states of CARICOM especially in the face of the debilitating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic.
As a result they declare “we have all individually and collectively recommitted to take all action necessary to ensure timely and effective implementation of the CSME, especially in light of the challenges of the current demanding environment.
“We have agreed that achieving full implementation of the CSME would require immediate specific action by the Organs and Bodies of the Community, Cabinets and Ministries of Member States, stakeholders (particularly the private sector) and the CARICOM Secretariat.
“We have agreed to have regular inclusion of the CSME as an item on the Agenda of Cabinet meetings,” the leaders said, adding “we have also agreed to give specific and focused attention to ensuring that our governance and accountability mechanisms and structures at the national and regional levels are made sufficiently robust for effecting the required CSME implementation including a greater oversight role for our Ambassadors to CARICOM
“We have endorsed the COTED decision to convene a special session on CSME implementation before its next regular meeting in November 2021 to agree on other specific actions proposed for immediate implementation by the various stakeholders towards ensuring full implementation of CSME provisions and to approve an overall Action Plan for CSME implementation.”