Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Editorial | Utilise best expertise in CARICOM review

Published:Sunday | July 31, 2016 | 7:00 AM

A week ago, the foreign ministry, on behalf of the Jamaican Government's review task force on CARICOM, for which it acts as secretariat, invited public submissions on its work. These submissions, they hope, "would facilitate a more comprehensive and inclusive process".

This request for ideas and proposals, we note, was by way of a press release from the ministry. It is quite possible that we missed it, but it doesn't appear that appeal, whose publication would hardly be obligatory on anyone, has as yet been followed up by an intensive campaign, including by advertising, to encourage participation.

If that hasn't happened, and isn't intended, we can only assume it is an oversight. Or, perhaps we are just running ahead of ourselves in the group's work programme, although, with an August 31 deadline for submissions, there is preciously little time for deep, thoughtful analysis on the matter from serious people, including experts in the field.

It could be, however, that Bruce Golding, the former prime minister who chairs the task force, is using another tack. We have previously observed that none of 18 members of Mr Golding group is either a declared regionalist or recognised for his/her expertise on CARICOM. Yet, residing in Jamaica are two former secretaries general of the Community - Sir Alister McIntyre and Roderick Rainford; one former deputy secretary general, Sir Kenneth Hall, the former governor general; and an assistant secretary general, Byron Blake.

 

Robust analysis

 

Indeed, over the past decade or more, Sir Kenneth has edited several books dealing with Caribbean development and integration, and Mr Blake regularly contributes to the press on integration and global trade. They represent expertise that ought not to be lost to the task force if Mr Golding is serious, as we believe he is, in bringing robust analysis, rather than the usually peevish whinge that masquerades therefor, to what, if any, benefit Jamaica has derived from CARICOM and how to extract greater value from it.

Since none has a seat at the table, Sir Kenneth et al has probably already been solicited for their ideas, or probably been contracted/invited to make submissions. That, at this stage, is what we would do. We are encouraged in this view by the revelation that Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines, and a thinker on the regional integration project, attended a recent mission of the task force.

On a related matter, we are surprised at the absence of public engagement by the Jamaican Government, including the foreign ministry, which has direct responsibility for such matters, of critical stakeholders on Britain's vote to leave the European Union (EU) - the so-called Brexit.

Jamaica, as a member of CARICOM, is part of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), a free-trade agreement between CARICOM and The Dominican Republic on one side, and the European Union on the other. The pact accounts for around EU7.4 billion in annual trade. That agreement, and the broader Cotonou pact between the EU and the African Caribbean and Pacific group, including Jamaica, will have to be adjusted to reflect the UK's departure from the EU.

At the same time, Britain and the Caribbean will have to determine the future of their trading relations. Jamaica, which has oversight for CARICOM trade negotiations, has an obligation, on its own and the region's behalf, to analyse and discuss these issues.