Prime Minister Freundel Stuart????

In spite of some headway being achieved with regard to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the single economy component remains very much "a work in progress".

This assertion was made by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart as he addressed the opening ceremony of the 32nd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). ??It was held yesterday at the Sir Cecil Jacobs Auditorium, Eastern Caribbean Central Bank, in Basseterre, St. Kitts and Nevis.

Stating that although the region was financially interdependent, Mr. Stuart said that efforts at macroeconomic convergence were still being worked on, but were being exacerbated by the current turmoil in the Eurozone and elsewhere. He pointed out that these realities had "injected a dose of sober realism" into CARICOM discussions.

"Ultimately we have come to accept that the existing timetable is not achievable. For Heads of Government to set yet another tenuous deadline in so volatile an environment would be highly irresponsible and an insult to the intelligence of our people.?? But, by no stretch of the imagination should this decision to postpone be interpreted as an abandonment of the ultimate, goal. Indeed, I expect that the renewed and highly commendable efforts of the [Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States] OECS towards economic union will contribute significantly towards our wider effort within the CSME", the Prime Minister stressed.

He further explained that the structure of the Single Market was now "firmly in place and operational, in terms of the Rights of Establishment and the free movement of goods, services, capital and the 10 categories of skilled persons".????

With respect to the free movement of goods, Mr. Stuart said the signs were "encouraging".?? "Indeed, according to the CARICOM Trade and Investment Report

2010, intra-regional imports grew by 92 per cent between 2004 and 2008, and intra-regional exports grew [by] almost 200 per cent. The growth was erratic and unevenly distributed among the membership but it is nevertheless a base on which we can all build.????

"Increasing our trade in agricultural products could contribute significantly to correcting that imbalance, while enhancing regional food security, but only if we can first resolve the long-outstanding phytosanitary and transport impediments," he stated.

Nevertheless, the Prime Minister said he was very optimistic about the future of the CARICOM community. He was of the view that some "teething problems in the CSME" should be expected;?? but maintained that whatever decisions were made should be done in an environment that was "frank and honest" and articulated the region’s individual and collective challenges "in a spirit of mutual understanding and support".

The summit comes to a close on July 4.


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