The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary General, Irwin La Rocque Wednesday said that while there has been significant progress in advancing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) “in several specific ways, much, however, remains to be done”.
Addressing the opening of the two-day Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) conference here, La Rocque said that in determining whether the CSME is achieving its intended results, it is necessary to undertake on-going performance assessments.
The CSME allows for the free movement of skills, goods, labour and services across the 15-member grouping.
He told the trade and economic affairs ministers from the Caribbean that “these would indicate the status of implementation of the relevant obligations under the various regimes and the impact.
“As you are aware, a Review of the CSME was completed last year. It looked at its basic framework as well as its supportive structure. The Review is in keeping with efforts to consolidate, recalibrate and strengthen the CSME arrangements that are currently in place.”
He said that based on the Review, Caribbean governments approved an implementation plan for outstanding issues as it relates to previous decisions, commitments and timelines.
La Rocque said that while the plan is to be published shortly “for it to be meaningful, member states must provide up-to-date information on their compliance”.
He said among other things, the Review showed that the lack of an effective consultative system at the national and regional levels has negatively affected decision making and implementation.
La Rocque said that against that background, a stakeholders consultation is scheduled for early next month.
“This would examine the CSME and its implementation, as currently configured, and identify what is necessary to make it more effective and utilised. The findings from the consultation are also intended to inform the on-going review of the CSME by the Heads of Government which continues in a Special Session in July.”
La Rocque said that the success of the CSME will largely be judged on the basis of the full implementation of the measures that allow member states, CARICOM nationals and businesses to benefit.
“From time to time, various challenges will arise which may not only have a direct impact on businesses but also on individuals within the Community. Such matters require effective and timely resolution.
“This will ensure that the rights and benefits conferred under our integration arrangements are not only protected, but are allowed to flourish. This, however, can only be achieved if we move expeditiously and decisively to resolve our differences, particularly those which have risen to the level of disputes.”
He said further, there are issues which remain on the COTED agenda for far too long.
“For example, we have been grappling with both Government Procurement and Contingent Rights for more than a decade, going back and forth with seemingly endless consultations. Politics, it is said, is the art of the possible. Let us make it possible to complete these outstanding matters. When officials seem not to be able to conclude on a matter, I dare say, it is the duty of the ministers to ensure that it is done,” he told the opening ceremony.
He said the agenda for the two day meeting will allow the Council to have a focused attention on economic development, continuing the periodic assessments which it has undertaken over time, adding “this is necessary, given the dynamic nature of the economic environment”.