Statement – Prime Minister Rowley to Parliament on CSME

PM Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada, PM Dr. Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago and Amb. Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM SG at the Special Heads of Government Meeting on the CSME held earlier in December
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Conceived as an instrument to facilitate economic development, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME) is the manifestation of the intent to deepen the integration process that began with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973.  That Treaty was later revised and the Community is now governed by the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas Establishing the Caribbean Community Including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) which was signed by Heads of Government in 2001.

The CSME came into effect in January 2006 with the signing of the “Declaration by Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community Marking the Coming into Being of the CARICOM Single Market” by the Heads of Government of Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.  Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines joined the Single Market several months later.  The ultimate goal of the CSME is to provide the foundation for growth and development through the creation of a single economic space for the production of competitive goods and services.

There has been progress made in the implementation of the CSME, for example:

  • The free movement of skilled CARICOM nationals has moved from five (5) initial categories to ten (10);
  • Those CARICOM nationals issued with Skills Certificates can move without the need to acquire work permits;
  • Businesses can utilise the régimes under the Right of Establishment as well as the Movement of Service Providers and Technical, Supervisory and Managerial Staff to enhance their operations;
  • Preference is given to trade in goods produced within the Single Market; and
  • The application of a Common External Tariff (CET) for goods entering from Third States.

The functioning of the Single Market has also been supported by a number of regional institutions that have been established for that purpose.  Among them is the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) whose objective is to provide legal certainty to the operations of the CSME.  CARICOM Member States that participate in the Single Market subscribe to the original jurisdiction of the Court.  The CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ) and the Caribbean Agricultural Health Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) set the standards for trade in goods under the CSME, while the CARICOM Competition Commission aims to promote competition and protect consumers from firms abusing their dominant position in the Market.

 

The Shape and Structure of the CARICOM  Market described in GDP data(2014).

Guyana …   3628                     Surinam ……….  9120

Belize…        4617                    Antigua……….    13,277

Jamaica…    5203                    Barbados ……….  15454

Dominica….  7002                  Trin/Tobago…….. 18798

St Vincent…  7203

 

In 2016 Trinidad and Tobago exported just under $870m to the OECS-ECCU and imported under $50m from them. This results in a large trade surplus of over $800m in favour of Trinidad and Tobago. Trinidad and Tobago, with our manufacturing and industrial base also maintains similar favourable balance of Trade with our other CARICOM neighbours of the MDCs viz. Jamaica, Barbados and Guyana. In short, CARICOM is the major outlet for Trinidad and Tobago manufactured products and is responsible for maintaining thousands of associated jobs and preservation of investments within Trinidad and Tobago. CARICOM is our market and we must do every reasonable thing to protect its existence, its health and its growth.

 

The Eighteenth (18th) Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on the CSME (Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago)

 

Over the years, Member States have lamented the slow progress in the implementation of decisions of the Conference. Further, CSME matters were not being treated in a sustained and consistent fashion at recent Heads of Government meeting. To advance the Single Market, much work remains to be done in areas pertinent to legislative reforms and administrative arrangements in the five core régimes namely, the free movement of goods, free movement of capital, free movement of skills, free movement of services and the right to establish a business.  Work is also ongoing in the regulatory and supporting areas such as competition, consumer protection and intellectual property.  In framing the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, certain areas were identified for further elaboration within the scope of the Single Market, such as government procurement, free circulation and electronic commerce.

It is against this backdrop that the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, at the Thirty-Eighth Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in July 2017, called for the convening of a special meeting to have a comprehensive discussion on the CSME. This proposal found favour with the other Heads, who agreed at the Twenty-Ninth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference (in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, February 26-27, 2018) that such a Meeting should be convened.  This decision was reinforced at the Thirty-Ninth Regular Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government in July 2018 in Montego Bay, Jamaica, where it was agreed that a Special Meeting of the Conference on the CSME be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November 2018”.

The Special Meeting was served as an important watershed forum where Heads took decisions on definitive CSME matters which have been outstanding for over a decade. The national interest of Trinidad and Tobago resides and is well served in a strong and thriving integration movement. Trinidad and Tobago has regained its leadership position in CARICOM.

Decisions of the 18th Special Meeting of CARICOM Heads on the CSME, December 03-04, 2018, Trinidad and Tobago

 

The Eighteenth Special Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on the CSME was convened in Port of Spain over the period December 3-4, 2018.  At the Meeting   Member States reaffirmed their commitment to the integration movement – CARICOM, and to taking heightened action towards the full implementation of the CSME.

The St. Ann’s Declaration was issued at the conclusion of the above-mentioned Special Meeting.  The main decisions contained therein are as follows:

 

Next Steps

 

Given the intent to bring new impetus to the implementation of the CSME, the following outlines the next steps for Trinidad and Tobago on a number of key commitments in the St. Ann’s Declaration.

  1. Commitments made with regard to the Free Movement of Persons:

In the Declaration, Member States committed to:

  • move towards full free movement within the next three (3) years (by 2021) for those willing.

 Once ratified, Trinidad and Tobago would be required to undertake a comprehensive review of the relevant legislative and administrative frameworks governing the entry and stay of CARICOM nationals as well as benefits to be accorded to them.

  1. Commitments made with regard to the Free Movement of Skilled Community Nationals:
  • include Agricultural Workers, Beauty Service Practitioners, Barbers and Security Guards to the agreed categories of skilled CARICOM nationals who are entitled to move freely and seek employment within the Community;
  • reiterate that a Skills Certificate issued by one Member State would be recognised by all Member States; and
  • complete legislative and other arrangements in all Member States for all categories within the framework of the Free Movement of Skilled Persons.

Fulfilment of these commitments requires that Trinidad and Tobago amend its existing legislation, the Immigration (Caribbean Community Skilled Nationals) Act to include, inter alia:

  • the expanded categories of skilled CARICOM nationals;
  • the recognition of Skills Certificates issued by other CARICOM Member States; and
  • authorization of the benefits to be extended to spouses and dependents of Skills Certificate holders as outlined in the Protocol on Contingent Rights.
  • Implementation of a Single Transport Space for Community Nationals

In accordance with the St. Ann’s Declaration, the Conference agreed to:

  • examine the re-introduction of the single domestic space for passengers in the Region;
  • work towards having a single security check for direct transit passengers on multi-stop intra-Community flights; and
  • conduct a special session on Air and Maritime Transportation at the Intersessional Meeting of the Conference in February 2019 to focus on this critical aspect of integration, in particular .

The next steps for Trinidad and Tobago include:

  • Ratification of the MASA;
  • Conduct of consultations for the development of national policy positions for deliberations at the regional level;
  • Allocation of adequate resources for the regional security apparatus; and
  • Ensure effective preparation for and representation at the special session on Air and Maritime Transportation at the Inter-sessional Meeting of Heads to be held in St. Kitts and Nevis in February 2019.
  1. The commitment for the mutual recognition of companies incorporated in a CARICOM Member State

Trinidad and Tobago would be required to conduct stakeholder consultations for the purpose of considering the existing CARICOM model legislation and formulating comments thereon.  These comments would then be transmitted to the CARICOM Secretariat for circulation to other Member States and discussion within the relevant Organs at the regional level.

 

Signature of CARICOM Instruments 

 

Prime Minister Rowley and CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque sign the Host Country Agreement for CARIFESTA in Trinidad and Tobago August 2019

It should be noted that the following CARICOM Instruments were signed by the Prime Minister at the Special Meeting:

  • Host Country Agreement for CARIFESTA XIV 2019

The Host Country Agreement for CARIFESTA XIV outlines the legal and operational framework for the management and staging of CARIFESTA in Trinidad and Tobago during the period August 16-25, 2019.

  • CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty

The CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty establishes within CARICOM, a system of arrest and surrender of requested persons for the purposes of:

  • Conducting a criminal prosecution for an applicable offence; or
  • Executing a custodial sentence where the requested persons have fled from justice after being sentenced for an applicable offence.
  • Prime Minister Rowley signed the CARICOM Arrest Warrant Treaty, CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA), and Protocol on Contingent Rights and Accompanying Application
  • CARICOM Multilateral Air Services Agreement (MASA)

The CARICOM MASA focuses on the exchange of route and traffic rights within the Community within the context of the goal of the Community Transport Policy, which is to “…[provide] adequate, safe and internationally competitive transport services for the development and consolidation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME)”. To this end, the MASA seeks to give effect to the “Community of Interest Principle (CoIP)” towards the achievement of a single domestic space for transportation.  This principle allows any CARICOM State that does not have a national airline the right to designate another CARICOM State airline to operate on its behalf.

  • Protocol on Contingent Rights and the accompanying Provisional Application

The Protocol on Contingent Rights and the accompanying Provisional Application denotes the benefits to be extended to the holders of CARICOM Skills Certificates as well as their spouses and dependents within participating Member States.

THE BENEFITS

The single economic space comprising the market infrastructure and the macro-economic policy framework and environment is intended to stimulate greater production, improved efficiency and competitiveness, production integration, higher levels of domestic and foreign investment, increased employment, expansion of intra- regional trade, particularly in inputs and intermediate goods and provide a platform for accessing extra-regional markets.

The CSME is therefore intended to better position Member States to grow by having access to and using the resources of the region as a whole rather than relying only on the resources of the resources of the particular Member state.

Fundamentally, it is intended to support sustained improvement in the standard of living, increased employment and opportunities for employment for CARICOM nationals.

Under successive PNM governments, Trinidad and Tobago has a proud legacy of championing and supporting the vision of regional integration and this Government has resurrected this idea and has returned our country to the forefront of the leadership efforts that are required to advance not only our interests as described but the interests of all our Caribbean brothers and sisters in these our Caribbean island homes where Trinidad and Tobago stand to benefit more than most.

Statement by Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley to the Parliament of Trinidad and Tobago, 12 December 2018

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