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Christie Voices Reservations Over CSME Membership

by Amanda Banks, Tax-News.com, London

07 July 2003


The future participation of the Bahamas in the CSME (Caribbean Single Market Economy) remains in doubt as Prime Minister Perry Christie expressed reservations over certain issues such as taxation, trade tariffs and freedom of movement at the 24th Caribbean Heads of Government Meeting in Jamaica.

In a statement released last week, Mr Christie voiced concerns that full involvement in the CSME would necessitate certain tax changes, such as the requirement for reductions in trade tariffs. Given that the country is struggling with a large fiscal deficit, the Prime Minister said that this would be problematic for the Bahamas. Christie is also concerned that the free movement of people provision would have serious consequences for the Bahamas.

The Bahamas' whole position in relation to CARICOM and the CSME is somewhat ambiguous and has been seen as akin to the UK's relationship with the European Union. Whilst the nation signed itself into the organisation in 1983, it 'opted out' of the economic integration of the Caribbean union, maintaining a position of flexibility on common market issues. However, it would appear that a 2001 amendment to the 1973 treaty that established CARICOM means that membership of the organisation now automatically implies participation in the CSME, meaning that the Bahamas may have to negotiate a separate agreement to maintain its independent stance.

Other issues on the agenda at the 24th meeting of Caribbean Heads of Government were the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice to replace the Privy Council based in Westminster, and the setting up of a pan-Caribbean tourist fund to help those countries still reeling from the effects of the September 11 tragedy.

Mr Christie also held a meeting with South African President Thabo Mbeki, and is hoping to arrange a further conference with the president in the Bahamas, where it is hoped that Mbeki will be persuaded to relax visa restrictions for entry into South Africa.


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