CSME ďA Work In ProgressĒ
By Candia Dames
6th June 2005
There are a number of elements of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy that have yet to be worked out, but the Caribbean Community hopes that The Bahamas will come onboard and sign the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas before the end of the year, according to CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington.
While on the Love 97 programme, "Jones and Company", on Sunday, Mr. Carrington was unable to provide specifics on certain aspects of CSME, noting that the details are something that the heads of CARICOM will have to come up with.
"The CSME at the moment is a work in progress and the CARICOM countries that are involved are constructing this arrangement," he said.
Mr. Carrington indicated that there is still a whole lot to be worked out as it relates to the single economy.
"If you look at the treaty, you would see that the single economy has hardly been sketched out in the treaty document," he said.
"It has set out broad guidelines as to what would be involved in the single economy. Essentially, the single economy is a process to move the economies of the region to certain common approaches in a number of areas that will enhance their competitiveness so that their productive capacity would be such that they can compete better in the international marketplace.
"Thatís the broad objective. How you do that, what are the steps that you have to take, these are matters we are working on."
Another aspect of the CSME that has not yet been clearly worked out is the regional development fund which will be established to cushion the economic fallout that may result from the formation of the CSME, Mr. Carrington indicated.
He could not say specifically what contribution The Bahamas would have to make to the development fund.
Asked what this countryís future with CARICOM would be if it does not sign the revised treaty, Mr. Carrington said it was a "political question".
"Iíll tell you why," he said. "The legal advice which we have is that this instrument, the revised treaty, including the single market and economy, does not provide as the previous instrument [did] for you to join the community and not the common market. It is one integral product and joining it commits you to the entire product subject to, of course, reservations.
"So, if The Bahamas signs on, letís say, without reservations then it is committed fully to that. If it wants not to participate in certain aspects of it then it would have to put forward reservations and get those accepted."
Mr. Carrington was also asked whether other CARICOM states could later challenge the reservations The Bahamas intends to secure. He stressed that CARICOM is not a "fly by night" organization and if the sovereign states have signed certain reservations with The Bahamas, they stand and "no one can challenge them."
The Bahamas government has said that it wants to sign the revised treaty, but only if it is able to secure certain reservations against the free movement of people, the monetary union, the Caribbean Court of Justice at the appellate level, and the common external tariff.
"Let us assume that they have agreed to those reservations," Mr. Carrington said. "Thatís it. If you did not get the agreement that you wish, then I presume you would sit down and determine [whether you should] go in nevertheless or [whether you should] on the basis of not receiving these reservations not go in."
He again indicated that The Bahamas would be able to keep its reservations for as long as it sees fit.
"Iím not a head of government, but I would find it difficult to believe that [the heads] would not give them sympathetic considerationÖThey would not be changed without The Bahamasí agreement."
Echoing a familiar sentiment in the CSME debate, The showís co-host, Godfrey Eneas, asked the CARICOM Secretary General why The Bahamas with a per capita income of between $15,000 and $17,000 should be "saddled" with other countries with low per capita incomes.
But Mr. Carrington took issue with the use of the word saddled, saying it was unfortunate that Mr. Eneas would choose that word "because no one is saddled with any country."
"If I follow your argument, [The Bahamas] is seeking to enter the Free Trade Area of the Americas. Then why should the rich U.S. saddle itself with a poor [Bahamas] in relative terms? It seems to me first of all, the notion of saddling is wrong because you seem to suggest that you have to carry those countries. That is not the case."
The showís host, Wendall Jones, then asked, "How do you answer the complaint of the criticism that the CSME is premature given the divergence of the states of the Caribbean, economically and socially.
Mr. Carrington responded, "To say that itís premature seems to suggest that there is some better time to come when you can do these things."
During the show, Mr. Jones also indicated that there are many Bahamians who have concerns about the right of establishment provision of the treaty.
Mr. Carrington explained that, "First of all, the principle of a right of establishment is that a national of a CARICOM member state has the right to establish a business in another member state in the community in the context of single market and be treated as a national of that particular country.
"My understanding is that a number of countries have identified areas in which they cannot accept [this]. I believe every country has certain exceptions. I donít know that the exceptions that you are talking about would be acceptable or otherwise. Itís an area I hope that discussions would take place."
Mr. Jones asked, "Can you say if there is anything in the revised treaty that states that the right of establishment will not apply to the retail and wholesale sectors?"
The secretary general said, "No. I donít think that there is anything in the treaty which is that specificÖLet me just remind you [that] The Bahamas would be seeking in my view a political situation.
"It may well be that in putting that in a document to the heads they may say, "Sorry, we canít accept that one. In other words, Iím saying donít limit yourself to what the treaty says because we are talking about a political arrangement which The Bahamas government would seek with a view to implementing the treaty."
Mr. Carrington was also asked why he thinks the CSME is so unpopular in The Bahamas.
"I can see no rational reason for the widespread unpopularity as youíve said," he answered.