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CARICOM Meeting Celebrates Single Market Progress

by Leroy Baker,, New York

15 February 2007

At the opening of a CARICOM Heads of Government conference in St Vincent and the Grenadines this week, outgoing and incoming chairmen Dr Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis and Ralph Gonsalves, host Prime Minister (pictured), celebrated the progress made by the Community during the last year.

Dr Douglas said that the Community could take pride in the progress that made in advancing the agenda for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). 'I am fully persuaded,' he said, 'that the CSME is a critical tool that we must utilize to the fullest to bring meaningful benefits to the people of the Region. It is important that all components of the Single Market and Economy are fully implemented within the time frames that we have set ourselves. I am particular pleased with the framework outlined in the paper “Single Vision for the Single Economy” which will be presented to this meeting. It is for me a signal achievement, which given the political will, ought to define the future development of our Community.

'I am also pleased with the tremendous work that has gone into the establishment of the Regional Development Fund and with the serious attempts made through this mechanism to address the special needs of the OECS countries. The progress that we have made in this regard would undoubtedly help to accelerate the pace at which the CSME is implemented.

'The OECS is embarking on a major new initiative that will give them the means of participating even more fully in the CSME and of providing a smooth and effective interface between the tiny islands that comprise the OECS and the wider Caribbean Single Market and Economy. I speak here of the proposed OECS Economic Union that we expect will deepen the integration process in the sub-region and empower OECS countries to overcome some of the limitations of size and play a more meaningful role in the Single Market and Economy. We do not view the OECS Economic Union as an alternative to the CSME. We view it as a critical element of the wider regional integration movement and we feel strongly that to the extent the OECS is able to break new ground in the integration process, the Caribbean Community as a whole will benefit significantly.'

Mr Gonsalves said that 2007 is a vital preparatory year for the CSME: 'In 2008, the Single Economy will be upon us; by 2008 a redefined many-sided relationship, including, centrally, a trading arrangement between CARICOM and the United States of America, has to be formalised; by January 1, 2008, the European Union and CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) is slated to conclude an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which portends altered relationships of real consequence to our region; in 2008, the Doha Development Round holds great promises and challenges for us; and by 2008 even more profound developmental relations between CARICOM and the Dominican Republic, Cuban and Venezuela are in the offing.'

2006 saw substantial progress within CARICOM itself towards the creation of a unified free trade area. Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago launched the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) in mid-year, while the OECS states, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, BVI, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines signaled their intention to form their own economic union, as well as committing to membership of the CSME. In July, Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands, Dr Orlando Smith, revealed that the territory's government is considering its future participation in the CSME.

CARICOM negotiations with the USA for a free-trade area are also alive and kicking, with a number of substantive meetings having taken place during the year.

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