CSME: The persisting implementation question

Friday, July 05, 2019

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ON Monday, July 1, Guyana and possibly a few other Member States of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) commemorated Caricom Day, marking the signing on July 4, 1973 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas creating the Caribbean Community and Common Market.

It seems the day is usually marked on the first Monday in July as member states decided that this day should be commemorated to recall the creation of Caricom and provide an opportunity for public education and reflection on achievements, challenges and the way forward.

The Caricom Conference of Heads of Government is customarily convened to coincide with the actual signing date. This year, the 40th Conference of Heads of Government is being held in St Lucia, July 3-5.

The commemoration of Caricom Day across the region, or lack of it, illustrates the general difficulty with implementation. The decision was taken, but only a few member states and regional institutions actually implemented it, demonstrating their commitment to the community which they founded.

This week's 40th Conference of Heads is focusing on the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME). You will recall that Jamaica's Golding Report, the 2017 Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica's Relations within the Caricom and Cariforum Framework, led the community to reflect on the protracted and unbalanced implementation of the CSME at the 39th Heads Conference held in Montego Bay, Jamaica on July 4 - 6 last year.

CSME implementation has been in progress since the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas was adopted in 2002, some 17 years ago. Arising from the Montego Bay Conference, a Special Heads Meeting was convened in December 2018 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, focusing specifically on the CSME and resulting in the adoption of the St Ann Declaration.

The 30th Intersessional Meeting of the Caricom Heads held in St Kitts and Nevis in February 2019 addressed progress in CSME implementation.

The Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) has responsibility for implementing the CSME. The 48th COTED Meeting was held in Georgetown, Guyana, April 29-30, and, as expected, CSME implementation was a key agenda item.

CARICOM secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, in his opening remarks, said:

“In a little over two months our heads of government will be expecting to receive a report card that indicates that the mandates laid out last July in Montego Bay; in Port-of-Spain last December; and in Frigate Bay last February have been fulfilled. Priorities were identified by the leaders and an Implementation Plan agreed upon.

“Member States recommitted fully to the effective implementation of the CSME and agreed to the timelines – short, medium and long term – set by the plan. This [COTED] meeting presents an opportunity to review the actions taken by member states to meet the timelines so that there could be an assessment of our progress.

However, implementation seems to be a shifting target as meeting after meeting there have been agreements, but these are not carry- forward work. An urgency to complete the agreed measures and make the CSME a lived reality for our citizens has been the hallmark of the recent discussions among heads of government.

The secretary general was clear when he said member states must demonstrate their commitment to implementing the CSME by their actions. He reminded the ministers of the challenges currently existing globally which Caricom's small economies must face head-on.

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