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Wise thoughts on Caricom from Messrs LaRocque and Tufton

Friday, July 06, 2012

THE positions put forward by Senator Christopher Tufton and Mr Irwin LaRocque, the Caricom secretary-general, on resolving the issues Jamaica is having with the regional grouping, are sound and should form the basis for discussions going forward.

Dr Tufton, the Opposition spokesman on foreign affairs and foreign trade, last Friday argued that the debate on Caricom had been characterised by too much emotion and needed "a dose of hard, data-driven analysis and economic pragmatism".

Even while acknowledging that Jamaica's trade imbalance with the regional bloc poses a major challenge and needs to be addressed, Dr Tufton is convinced that there are "uncontroversial advantages to Caricom" such as capacity-building, regional security, natural disaster management and lobbying in international fora which are "impatient of debate..."

We agree with Senator Tufton that Jamaica has failed to adequately grasp the opportunities presented by Caricom by enforcing and taking advantage of its rules.

Our own economic problems, we suggest, have played a significant role in that. Therefore, Senator Tufton is correct in putting forward the idea of Jamaica advocating an amendment to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas in order to give us greater freedom and flexibility on matters of trade.

His recommendation falls in line with Mr LaRocque's view that fixing the problems that exist between Jamaica and its Caricom sister nations is more practical than heeding the recent calls for Jamaica to leave the Community.

Like Mr LaRocque, we do not believe that the problems are insurmountable. That is why we cannot support the calls for secession, even while we acknowledge the level of frustration that exists in Kingston over issues of trade and the free movement of people within the regional bloc.

We are therefore encouraged by Mr LaRocque's revelation to senior journalists in Kingston last week that the issues raised by Jamaica are already being given serious attention "in various quarters".

It is our hope that those discussions will include other Caricom states that feel aggrieved by the abuse meted out to their citizens by border control officials in some member countries.

For, as Mr LaRocque so clearly put it last week, "we have to stop seeing each other as foreigners".

Mr LaRocque, we find, brings a freshness, clarity of thought, and great intellect to the job as Caricom secretary-general.

We also detect in him a passionate drive to ensure that the regional bloc survives in order, as he said, "to serve the development of our region".

There can be no better justification than that. As such, we believe Caricom could benefit greatly from a meeting of the minds between Mr LaRocque and Senator Tufton as both men obviously share the same objective, cerebral acumen and penchant for action based on research.

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