Two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries have been granted a five year deferral on the freedom of movement of Caribbean nationals under the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the 15-member grouping, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley has said.
While he did not name the two regional countries, authorities here confirmed than Antigua and Barbuda was one of them.
Rowley, speaking at a news conference here on Sunday, reminded reporters that Port of Spain had last December hosted a special CARICOM summit on the CSME where “we got unanimous support for the acceleration towards a single market and economy.
“In that arrangement is the whole question of freedom of movement of individuals…among the territories, everybody agreed to that (but) by the next meeting, while there is commitment to that two CARICOM territories raised and asked for a deferral of the freedom of movement which that development was directing us to”.
He said these two territories were able to tell CARICOM at the two-day Inter-sessional meeting in St. Kitts-Nevis last week that “we have been practising in this before the rest of you have now agreed to do it.
“So within our borders, we have a huge amount of Caribbean people for whom no barrier was put to them. Now that we are saying it is to be policy…and legal standing is put for ease of migration these two territories found themselves saying this may generate within our borders and in some instances have already generated concerns about the balance of the population within their borders’.
Rowley told reporters that as a result the two territories “asked for a five year deferral as not to be bound legally to accept any and all who would come into their borders because the effect that would have”.
He said this situation had only arisen “because of the size. It is not the willingness to participate or the willingness to accept the CSME as the best arrangement for us. But this effect on the smallest is a practical situation and I dare say that the rest of the CARICOM saw and understood what was being said by our CARICOM neighbours in that situation and granted the deferral”.
In the communique issued following the summit in St. Kitts-Nevis, the regional leaders said regarding the CSME that they had “reviewed progress on decisions taken” at a previous summit and that “welcomed the fact that all countries have signed the Protocol on Contingent Rights.
“In addition, eight countries have decided to apply the measures that would allow their nationals to benefit in those countries from the provisions of that agreement on contingent rights which allows for spouses and dependents of skilled workers who move to another country to access services such as education and health on the same basis as nationals”.
It said that these countries are Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, St Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago