Senior Trade Officer in the Ministry of International Trade, Mr. Samuel Berridge was among trade and economic ministers from the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) who concluded a two-day meeting in Guyana on Tuesday. The status of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) was the priority topic on their agenda. CMMC reported that Guyana’s Foreign Affairs, Trade and International Cooperation Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, told the ministers attending the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) meeting that there is need for a recommitment to the CSME that provides for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and skills across the region. “People must feel that CARICOM is working for them,” she said, while the COTED chairman Clifford Marica, the Minister of Trade and Industry in Surname challenged his colleagues to find practical solutions to the problems confronting the initiative. He said he hoped that clear cut proposals would be arrived at during the meeting that would also be presented to the Intersessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government scheduled for March. He said he anticipated a ‘turbulent and busy” year for the region, making reference to the global economic crisis, the January 12 earthquake in Haiti and climate change among other concerns. A CARICOM Secretariat statement issued ahead of the meeting, said it would scrutinise a Report on the Appraisal of the CSME ‘that had been discussed By senior CARICOM officials last month. It said that in preparation for the COTED discussions, a series of meetings relating to the functioning of the CSME were held focusing on areas such as Contingent Rights, the state of implementation of the CSME, the treatment of monopolies, and free circulation and safeguards. The CARICOM Secretariat statement said that delegates were told that while the CARICOM Single Market (CSM) aspect of the CSME was working, ‘there was need for a greater level of coherence among member states. “Challenges remained in areas such as the establishment of the legal framework within which the CSM would effectively operate; and in giving effect to the right of establishment and the free movement of skills, among other areas.” Among other recommendations, the Report underscored the need to build the additional capacity that is required to develop the CSME that would allow for the maximum facilitation of the free movement of skills capital and services across the region. The COTED meeting also received a report on a meeting on Contingent Rights held in January. In her address to the meeting, CARICOM Deputy Secretary General Lolita Applewhaite, said it was important for COTED to take decisive action in order ‘to determine ways to promote the development of our economies, oversee the operation of the CSME, and the way forward in our trade relations”. She said that the deliberations were taking place in an environment that “affects both our economic and social development.” “The need for quick, decisive action is even more important. We are faced with the decimation of one of our most important industries – bananas. Sugar is not far behind. There are challenges in the rum industry. Our economies are continuing to reel from the effects of the global crises. The need has never been greater for us to strengthen the operations of our single market.” The CARICOM official said that while there have been significant achievements regarding the CSME, there were still those who were seeking to undermine the achievements. “The appraisal of the state of implementation of the CSME has been completed and the report of the findings is on the agenda for consideration at this meeting. This appraisal reveals that for the most part that the Single Market, which entered its fifth year this year, is functioning and that there is mutual access to the markets of Member States.” There is no doubt that a lot more needs to be done. A few short weeks ago, the Secretary-General charged member states to make progress on Contingent Rights, one of the essential elements of the free movement platform of the Single Market. “I reiterate his call and charge you, our Ministers, to ensure that there is resolution to those matters that are preventing us from moving forward with the Protocol on Contingent Rights, one of the measures that would help give full expression to the commingling of our peoples,” she added.
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