In the face of a changing international relations landscape President David Granger has called on his fellow heads of state to accelerate the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) in order to create a single economic space.
Speaking yesterday at the 38th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Carib-bean Community in Grenada, the President noted that the Community finds itself in an international situation filled with uncertainty and complexity.
He explained that “US policy, as a result of changes in its administration, is uncertain; UK policy, owing to its resolve to exit the European Union (EU), is uncertain; EU policy, after the expiration of the Cotonou Accord, is uncertain and that African Union (AU) policy, within the African, Caribbean and Pacific group, will be driven by the continent’s collective interests, different from CARICOM’s, and is uncertain”.
The CSME is he stressed “the most ambitious project attempted by the Community” before urging that it not become its most ambiguous for the CSME, especially given the present uncertainties facing the Region’s international relations. He charged that it must be accelerated in order to create a single economic space.
Granger reminded that in addition to protecting and promoting it vital strategic interests in its international relations the community must ready itself for negotiations with the UK, EU and the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. As such CARICOM cannot cling to an obsolete model of insularity.
It must instead redouble its efforts to ensure a more safe society for its citizens, more stable economies for its countries, deeper solidarity and a more secure hemisphere leaving behind the mirage of fifteen airlines, fifteen cricket teams, defence forces and fifteen embassies in the capitals of the world. While these might mesmerise a few sentimental romantics, Granger warned they could also deplete the treasuries of CARICOM states.
He identified the dismantling of restrictive immigration practices, which impede free movement as an obligation declaring that the Com-munity must be mindful of its duty to protect its citizens and reject the odious notion of ‘statelessness’.
“The Charter of Civil Society of the Caribbean Community establishes that we are, foremost, a community of citizens,” he said adding that citizenship is sacred.
“It is not a bauble to be bought in a bazaar. Every State has the sovereign right to determine its own immigration policies consistent with its Treaty commitments. That right, however, should not impair the integrity of our mutual relations or damage the ideal of free movement within a single domestic space,” Granger said.
He called on the Com-munity to continue to condemn inhuman treatment meted out to Caribbean citizens in the Dominican Republic or anywhere else and consistently reminded that “foreign policy coordination is the sharp instrument, the cutting edge, of CARICOM diplomacy, to gain great advantage.”
According to the President within CARICOM there exists the land, the labour, the talent and the capital to guarantee food security for its citizens therefore the Community’s annual food import bill, which exceeds US$4B, is a notorious indictment of its ability to promote investment and stimulate intra-regional trade in agricultural commodities.
The constraint placed on trade in food by non-tariff barriers must be acknowledged and the process of dismantling these barriers re-examined.
“Commerce is the lifeblood of our econo-mies. Small internal markets consign states to high dependence on external trade. Intraregional trade, therefore, is important,” the president said.
He also noted the importance of security and connectivity praising the security cooperation realized under the CARICOM Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACs) and through international agreements such as the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) which have helped to keep citizens safe.
These he argued, however, are not enough, therefore security cooperation must remain a priority in this age of international terror in 2017.
In the area of connectivity Granger reminded of the Roadmap for a single ICT Space, which was approved at the 28th Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Carib-bean Community held in Georgetown in February 2017.
This map which is expected to straddle the 3,200 km2 of sea space, which separates Nassau in the north from Paramaribo in the south, through information and communications technology must be advanced, he urged.