The discussion regarding a suggested 18-month "standstill" posture by Jamaica relevant to trade with its Eastern Caribbean neighbours — with particular reference to Trinidad & Tobago (T&T) — continues. This would be construed as an attempt to level the balance of trade which, for years, has proved to be injurious to Jamaica's economy. The resulting trade deficit currently amounts to approximately US$1.5 billion.
Unfortunately, investor confidence is not likely to be encouraged by the ongoing debate that bodes ill for future projects now on the drawing board. Those with the means and interest to invest in the planned "Logistics Hub" would be disturbed by the possibility of a Jamaican standstill position for 18 months. However, a standstill posture is not likely to happen as Article 43 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC), that is the basis of the debate, judging by its context relative to other associated and complementary articles in the treaty, would render such a move "unorthodox" and therefore unworkable.
Companies owned and operated in Jamaica by Eastern Caribbean business interests, with Trinidadian and Barbadian management, are probably assessing the potential fallout should such a temporary situation come into effect, which could result in those businesses having to be recalibrated for tax purposes, and new temporary regulations concerning the movement of capital during the 18-month period, the repatriation of profits and movement of personnel for which temporary visas could be required. Articles 30 to 44 of the RTC refers to the "Establishment, Services, Capital and Movement of Community Nationals" that after study would have to be realigned with the temporary regulatory framework resulting from the varied interpretation of Article 43 of the RTC that is presently undergoing reformation. With education being a main topic of interest, consideration would have to be given to the relationship and management with the campuses at UWI Mona, Cave Hill in Barbados, and St Augustine in Trinidad, with the new regional headquarters recently opened at Mona. These complications are a few examples attached to any suspension of trade with T&T and the rest of Caricom for 8 months and possibly longer.
Some background information may assist in better understanding the present debate and the reasons for it. Caricom is on the threshold of the 46TH COTED meeting in September that promises to deal with the perennial difficulties faced by the regional states, and Jamaica in particular, and has called for a deeper presence of the private sector and an improvement in the submission of briefs on issues of high importance to business interests around the Caribbean. As it is, Caricom finds itself an embattled group of 15 Small Island Developing States (SIDS) trying to close the ranks of its phalanx against the onslaught of world liberalisation in the midst of a global recession. Attempts have continued throughout the years to establish a Caricom domestic market, which would be the CSME, but is still incomplete. The technocrats and bureaucrats will readily give you a thousand and one reasons why the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) has not yet become a reality.
While Jamaican officials set out for the 46th COTED meeting in Guyana with optimism, it is unlikely that the Single Economy can be achieved before the establishment of the "Logistics Hub", a situation that promises to be a further complication.
Article 43 of the RTC does not provide for a partial "suspension or withdrawal" from the Treaty by a Caricom member state. This is upheld by the Vienna Convention on the Law of Treaties 1969, Invalidity, Termination and Suspension of the operation of Treaties: Section 1, General Provisions. Article 42 (Vienna Convention) Validity and continuance in force of treaties:
1. The validity of a treaty or of the consent of a State to be bound by a treaty may be impeached only through the application of the present convention.
2. The termination of a treaty, its denunciation or withdrawal of a party, may take place only as the result of the application of the treaty or of the present convention. The same rule applies to suspension of the operation of the treaty.
Article 44. Separability of treaty provisions.
1. A right of a party, provided for in a treaty or arising under Article 56, to denounce, withdraw from or suspend the operation of the treaty may be exercised only with respect to the whole treaty unless the treaty otherwise provides, or the parties otherwise agree.
2. A ground for invalidating, terminating, withdrawing from or suspending the operation of a treaty recognised in the present convention may be only with respect to the whole treaty except as provided in the following paragraphs or in Article 60. (Article 60 et al are not directly relevant at this stage).
The above is the key part of the convention.
The time is especially favourable to focus on the creation of the highly vaunted "Logistics Hub", that probably would run beyond 48 months before it is activated, that in terms of "Jamaica Time" is still elastic. Questions on the Logistics Hub will surely arise at the COTED meeting next month, and it will be very useful to hear their views on the project. It is hoped that the Caricom naysayers can now turn their attention to fixing the regional problems that befall us, and focus on production for the betterment of the Jamaican economy.