We welcome Christopher Tufton's effort at clarifying the Jamaica Labour Party's (JLP) position on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and his undeclared attempt to extricate his colleague, Gregory Mair, from his poorly informed, insubstantive, and emotive soap-boxing against the Community.
Essentially, Dr Tufton says the JLP has no problem with the functional cooperation elements of CARICOM, which he believes have been of benefit to Jamaica in areas such as education, training, security and foreign-policy coordination.
His party, however, has concerns with how CARICOM has operated as a single market. He argues that a clause in the treaty that governs the Community can be "manipulated to provide unfair advantages to certain member states", of which, we presume Jamaica is not numbered.
For "certain member states", you can read Trinidad and Tobago, the Community's only surplus producer of energy, and industrial powerhouse, which enjoys the lion's share of Jamaica's near US$1-billion trade deficit with CARICOM.
Unlike Mr Mair, the shadow commerce and industry minister, Dr Tufton is attempting to ground the CARICOM debate in specifics, rather than mere declarations about how Jamaica is being hard done. The Community processes of verification, he suggests, are loose, allowing for the manipulation of rules of origin. His implication is that Jamaica is the major market, and victim, of such passed-off products.
He also raised the regular claim of Jamaican producers of an energy subsidy by Trinidad and Tobago to its manufacturers.
But while Dr Tufton has advanced the quality of the discourse on intraregional trade, he failed, with regard to the rule of origin issue, to make a credible case of systemic cheating. There are some who will also question the logic that the misbehaviour of our regional partners could be of such detriment to Jamaica as to shake the institutional foundation of CARICOM, rather than stronger bureaucratic efforts to ensure compliance with Article 84 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Further, while it is important for the Jamaican Government, if it believes that the rules are being broken, to determine the effects on Jamaican firms, this does not remove from an opposition party, recently in government, the obligation of its own fact-based, data-driven and intellectually robust analysis of the value of our participation in an important regional and hemispheric institution.
PROVE TREATY BREACHES
For instance, we would believe it important to determine and articulate how Trinidad and Tobago prices its energy to manufacturers and in what way this would have breached any of 20 articles on subsidies of Part Three of the treaty, and whether Jamaica is entitled to any of the remedies afforded by these articles.
Or, perhaps there is a case to be made - which we are yet to hear articulated - that Trinidad and Tobago, by the way it prices energy in its domestic sphere, is in breach of Article 7 of the treaty that prohibits "any discrimination on the grounds of nationality". Maybe there is an implied argument in the treaty for the managing and pricing of strategic resources like energy.
The point is that mere whingeing is not good enough in the globalised 21st century.
Maybe Jamaica should opt out of CARICOM, or, as the leaders indicated is possible, proceed slower than others. It should not, however, be a decision of emotion.
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