By Marion Ali, Staff Reporter
A new World Bank report entitled, ‘Trade matters: New opportunities for the Caribbean’ indicates that having a common market in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) would lead to a substantial rise in regional exports. But after 43 years of existence, the 15-member countries that make up CARICOM do not have a common market, even though it has aspired to a ‘single market and economy’ since 1989. By 2006 only 12 member states had created a framework for such a common market and since then, by 2011, the Heads of Government of CARICOM had decided to delay its establishment.
The single market proposes to offer a viable opportunity for CARICOM countries to compete in the global economy.
The World Bank report states that “The gains for the Caribbean of entry to the North American Free Trade Agreement would be six times the size of the gains for implementing a Caribbean common market. The negotiations toward a Canada-Caricom free trade agreement launched in 2007 should also be pursued.”
From the indications that have been given on the realities, even if CARICOM governments are not ready to advance the single market, they should give serious and meaningful consideration to their trading relations with the rest of the world.
Former Barbadian Prime Minister, Owen Arthur, on a review of the growth of mega trading blocs seeking to become more powerful observed that “The Caribbean has no relationship or forms of engagement with these new forces of global development. Indeed, the lack of any relationship with the new mega trading blocs could have devastating consequences.”
Arthur went on to state that exports from the established trading blocs enter each other’s markets duty free, while ours enter duty paid. “The consequences for the Caribbean for failure to engage can therefore be catastrophic”, he lamented.