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Editorial: A chance to revive CARICOM

Published:Monday | September 14, 2015 | 9:00 AM

Several months ago, this newspaper told Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller that her first order of business after the elections in Trinidad and Tobago should be to ring up that country's new leader, whoever it was, to talk about the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). If she hasn't as yet, Mrs Simpson Miller should make that call.

As it turns out, the person with whom the Jamaican leader will speak is Keith Rowley, the leader of the People's National Movement (PNM), who has been sworn in as prime minister after his party's defeat of Kamla Persad-Bissessar's United National Congress-led coalition in the national vote. This is promising.

There are several reasons why we feel a conversation between the leaders of both countries is important, among which is the logic of regional integration and, therefore, the relevance of CARICOM. This is a group of 15 mostly small island developing states with limited internal markets, struggling to survive in a hostile global environment.

In the circumstance, their attempt at amalgamation into a single market and economy makes sense. It, potentially, broadens the pool for capital and labour, and provides an environment for the honing of skills in global competition. It is not without reason that economic integration movements are being formed and/or expanded in many regions of the world. There is also the advantage of speaking in the global space, on most issues, with a single voice. The sum of CARICOM, in this circumstance, can be greater than the product of its individual parts.

Unfortunately, while its functional cooperation arrangements have worked reasonably well, CARICOM, as an economic entity, has failed to deliver breakthroughs. The result is diminished confidence in the Community among the citizens of its member states. Part of the problem is its weak governance arrangements. In the absence of implementation, authority remains with individual states that have been unwilling to share that sovereignty with a critical centre.

 

BROADENING THE COMMUNITY

 

These are issues that are now the subject of a review by CARICOM, which, we believe, should include the possibility of broadening the Community to include Cuba and other regional countries. However, even as these ideas are being developed, much more can be achieved with appropriate leadership applying the requisite momentum. In this case, we mean Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively, CARICOM's political and economic leaders. Not only is Jamaica the Community's single largest market, it, in the global space, punches politically above its weight. Trinidad and Tobago, with its oil, gas and strong manufacturing base, is CARICOM's richest country.

Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago are the countries with the greatest tension between them, often at loggerheads over the fairness with which the treaty's mechanisms are enforced. It is they who can best cause a reset in CARICOM, if they assume their leadership positions, in the manner in which Germany and France have often done in relation to the European Union.

In Trinidad and Tobago, the PNM is the party more given to the ideals of regional integration, and Dr Rowley, during his election campaign, talked about rebuilding relations with the Community. His predecessor once complained of her CARICOM partners looking to Trinidad and Tobago as an automated teller machine, which she would turn off.

Mrs Simpson Miller's party has long embraced regionalism. She can seek to give the movement new life.