CARICOM countries have been told to make CARICOM work.
This call was made recently by Chairman of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), Sandra Husbands, at the 47th Meeting of the COTED, held at the Guyana Marriott Hotel in Georgetown, Guyana, from November 15 to 16.
Mrs. Husbands, who is also Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade in Barbados, insisted that CARICOM countries needed to organize and integrate their production activities so the region could capitalize on trade opportunities.
She recommended strategic, deliberate and effective discussion, decisions and implementation, as well as cooperation and harmonization among member countries.
“Each one of us is aware that the trade is skewed; the vast population of the agenda with requests for suspension of the Common External Tariff reflects the tremendous lag in moving forward on a Production Cooperation Initiative.
“This would generate jobs, increase trade and boost government revenues and GDP. Instead, everyone wants their own beer factory and no one produces towels or linens for the millions used in our homes and hotels. This indicates that we need to organize our production activities and integration. Many opportunities are being lost,” she cautioned.
The COTED Chairman argued that in the global context, small island states like the Caribbean were at a disadvantage, and pointed out that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy must be moved forward. Acknowledging there are challenges, she indicated that opportunities abound nonetheless and urged participants at the meeting to “seize the moment”.
“We are in a world where the special circumstances of small states are being overlooked and undervalued. This puts us at great risk if we do nothing, and presents us with great opportunity to deconstruct what no longer adds value and reconstruct what will enrich our future, if we act swiftly and effectively.
“None but ourselves will ensure that we do not fail in our pursuits aimed at further integration, cooperation and harmonization. Our efforts need to be focused on changing the dynamic at the extra-regional and the intra-regional level. We must make CARICOM work,” she emphasized.
Maintaining that the regional body could no longer afford to see itself as 15 territories, the Foreign Trade Minister added: “Our very survival depends on our identifying our common interest, and acting as one in common cause to achieve our objectives. We are not 15 members haggling and negotiating to create individual benefit for our countries. Rather, we are sister territories striving to manage our resources and opportunities to generate accelerated value and benefit which we share for mutual benefit.”
Stressing COTED was crucial to the CARICOM Community, she also advised COTED participants to build on the progress made by CARICOM Heads of Government at their July 2018 conference held in Montego Bay, Jamaica, as well as the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee and the Council for Finance and Planning, which was held in Barbados in September 2018.
“A space must be created for us to deliberate on making the COTED the most revered organ in the community. Our mandate speaks to trade and economic development which is the heart beat of our societies. It is integral to every facet of government, business and society. In the absence of success, our ability to achieve sustainable development and sustained societies will be at risk,” Mrs. Husbands warned.