GEORGETOWN, Gyuana- Caribbean Community Secretary General Irwin LaRocque opened the 46th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COETD) by challenging the delegates to speed up legislation and programmes which have been stalled for years. Here are his opening words:

As I address the opening session of this the Forty-Sixth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), I would like to welcome Senator the Honourable Pearnel Charles Jr, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica to his first meeting of this Council; and Minister of Trade, Industry and Tourism
His Excellency Stephen Tsang. I look forward, Minister, to you taking an active part in the deliberations.

Honourable Ministers, it might be timely to remind you about the crucial role that this Council plays in advancing our integration movement.

The COTED has one of the most expansive mandates of all the Community Organs. Its main task is overseeing the functioning of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME). In so doing, it is responsible for promoting the development of the agricultural, industrial and services sectors, developing and facilitating policies and programmes for transportation, the environment, energy, science and technology. This Council is also mandated to promote and develop the external trade relations of the Community.

All of these fit under your overarching responsibility as designated by the Revised Treaty which is the promotion of trade and economic development of the Community.

Your agenda today allows, once again, for this Council to have a focused attention on economic development, continuing the periodic assessments which it has undertaken over time. This is necessary, given the dynamic nature of the economic environment.

I look forward to the analyses and ideas which you will exchange, as you outline your vision and strategies to further the sustainable economic development of the Community.

Your core function, the operation of the CSME, has been emphasised repeatedly by our Heads of Government, as the vehicle for achieving sustainable economic growth and development for the Community. It is undoubtedly the primary platform for building international competitiveness and economic resilience for the Region.

There has been significant progress in advancing the CSME in several specific ways. Much, however, remains to be done.

In determining whether the CSME is achieving its intended results, it is necessary to undertake on-going performance assessments. These would indicate the status of implementation of the relevant obligations under the various regimes and the impact.

As you are aware, a Review of the CSME was completed last year. It looked at its basic framework as well as its supportive structure. The Review is in keeping with efforts to consolidate, recalibrate and strengthen the CSME arrangements that are currently in place.

Based on the Review, the Heads of Government approved an Implementation Plan for outstanding issues as it relates to previous decisions, commitments and timelines.

The Plan is to be published shortly. But for it to be meaningful, Member States must provide up-to-date information on their compliance.

Among other things, the Review showed that the lack of an effective consultative system at the national and regional levels has negatively affected decision making and implementation.

Against that background, a Stakeholders Consultation is scheduled for early next month. This would examine the CSME and its implementation, as currently configured, and identify what is necessary to make it more effective and utilised. The findings from the Consultation are also intended to inform the on-going review of the CSME by the Heads of Government which continues in a Special Session in July.

As I have said on several occasions, the success of the CSME will largely be judged on the basis of our full implementation of the measures that allow Member States, CARICOM nationals and businesses to benefit.

From time to time, various challenges will arise which may not only have a direct impact on businesses but also on individuals within the Community. Such matters require effective and timely resolution.

This will ensure that the rights and benefits conferred under our integration arrangements are not only protected, but are allowed to flourish.

This, however, can only be achieved if we move expeditiously and decisively to resolve our differences, particularly those which have risen to the level of disputes.

Further, there are issues which remain on our agenda for far too long. For example, we have been grappling with both Government Procurement and Contingent Rights for more than a decade, going back and forth with seemingly endless consultations.

Politics, it is said, is the art of the possible. Let us make it possible to complete these outstanding matters. When officials seem not to be able to conclude on a matter, I dare say, it is the duty of the Ministers to ensure that it is done.

A proposal is before this Meeting aimed at addressing this particular problem. The Council is also being requested to provide the necessary guidance on the steps to take in fully operationalizing the dispute settlement mechanisms under Chapter Nine of the Revised Treaty.

This is not only intended to address matters related to disputes arising from Member States’ non-compliance with their obligations under the Treaty, but also the enforcement of decisions of the COTED, in order to further advance the implementation of the CSME.

In closing Honourable Ministers, I refer to the old saying, to whom much is given, much is expected. And a lot has been thrust onto this Council. It is expected, therefore, that it delivers. The Agenda before you presents an opportunity to address serious issues and provide solutions that would advance our integration movement.

Mr. Chairman, Honourable Ministers, I trust that your deliberations will be productive and that our Community will be better for it.

I thank you.