Full Disclosure
October 10, 2008
Deepening regional integration

It is clear that the future of the Caribbean has to be grounded in its ability to effectively integrate itself in such a manner as to effect workable strategies that inform our foreign affairs and trade policies, and overall development strategies in an increasingly competitive world.{{more}}

On the 14th August, 2008, the prime ministers of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines signed a joint declaration on collaboration towards the achievement of a single economy and appropriate political integration among the mentioned states. This must be considered to be a head start to the process of deepening regional integration.

The signatories have agreed that this Joint Declaration is aimed at furthering the objectives of the Caribbean Community, and at reinforcing and accelerating the process of integration now taking place under the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. It furthers, that towards this end, “the signatory countries resolve that no initiative associated with the implementation of this Joint Declaration shall undermine the single market or the economic cohesion established by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, or constitute a barrier to or discrimination in trade or distort competition between the signatory countries, and the other member States of the Caribbean Community.”

At this critical stage, there is no need for us to second guess ourselves for the third time or more. The writing is on the wall for us to deepen our ties. The question is how soon will this fervour spread throughout the entire region, above and beyond regular speeches and general commitments on the issue of integration?

The Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis, and Chairman of CARICOM at the time, Dr Denzil Douglas, in a statement supporting deepening regional integration, described it as the way forward for sustainable economic development within the Caribbean.

Prime Minister Douglas correctly stated that “When all factors are taken into account, one can only conclude that the way forward for countries of the Caribbean lies in the effectiveness of our own integration; the efficiencies and the relevance of our own regional institutions; upon increased access to tertiary level education, greater exposure to specialised training; and the effective implementation and operation of the CSME. All these will have to be pursued vigorously.”

As far back as 1983, Edward Seaga, then Prime Minister of Jamaica, underscored this point:

“Nowhere else in the developing world, not in Africa, not in Asia, is there any region that combines proximity, access, industrial experience, together with political and economic systems, hospitable to enterprise, to the degree that we do. We are in a unique position to magnetize the Region as a centre of production for economic take-off. All that is needed is the political will.”

From across the political divide, seven years later, then Acting Prime Minister P.J Patterson echoed those very sentiments:

“We are bound together by an historical process. There is an enormous psychological bonding, yet we find elusive and sometimes difficult the necessary political will to cement all of the historical social and cultural bonds into an economic foundation”.

Patterson went on to predict: “the next generation will never forgive us. They will look at a united Europe, a cooperative Asia, a Latin America attempting to set up free trade areas, and begin to wonder what went wrong in the Caribbean.”

From time to time, we are left in the mist when it comes to our anticipation of receiving excellent prospects from international trade negotiations. We can only stand as a collective regional force if we deepen our political and economic ties, and even then, the strength of such a consolidation as a bargaining agent would be tested, and hopefully not to the point of fatality.

Caricom is a regional integration experiment among fifteen countries of the Caribbean Basin. The integration process began in1973, following a failed attempt at the creation of a Federation of Caribbean States in the late 1950s to early1960s. A half century later brings us to today. We must be forthright and committed in our efforts to contribute to the evolutionary process of deepening regional integration. It is in this light that the islands of Trinidad and Tobago, Grenada, Saint Lucia and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines must be commended for taking the initiative to lead by example.

Saboto Caesar is a Lawyer and Unity Labour Party Senator.