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The issue was not a major discussion item at the just concluded Caribbean Community leaders summit in Haiti, but a proposal by a review commission for Jamaica to leave the regional single trading market is still making the rounds and drawing spirited reactions from various quarters in the bloc.
The man who previously led the commission to review Jamaica’s continued participation in regional family matters continues to argue that Jamaica should quit the trading system largely because some member countries are not committed to its success and only offer lukewarm support for the system.
“Let’s not pretend and stop tinkering around if it is that we say something is not working. I think it’s workable, but it requires significant commitment on behalf of member countries, and until they are committed this is where it stops,” said former Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
The report that the Golding-led commission submitted to the Jamaican government had been completed and sitting in a filing cabinet for more than a year but was released and debated just weeks before leaders, trade and other ministers flew to Haiti for the two-day summit, generating spirited debate.
Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of St. Vincent and one of the longest serving leaders in the 15-nation bloc, was one of those who reacted to the key recommendation of the review commission, suggesting that Golding was “unrealistically optimistic” if not utopic in expecting the system to work flawlessly. He suggested that the recommendation was “unworkable in its current form.”
Leaders will meet again in the first week of July for their main summit. The issue will definitely be a main agenda item according to officials at the Guyana-based regional secretariat, along with reparations and a full discussion on how to treat marijuana, among other agenda items.
Jamaica has long complained about unfair treatment of its products in the single market, often pointing to protectionist attitudes by some markets, particularly Trinidad. The island said that all others have had unfettered access to Jamaica, but that is not true for Jamaica products trading in the region.
“We can only wait to see what the other CARICOM members have said. I just believe that if you take a position that the single market and economy is not achievable, then pull down the façade. Let’s agree it is not workable. Let’s revert to what we had before, which was a common market,” Golding suggested. “I just think that we are at a stage where a decision has to be made, certainly so far as the single market and economy is concerned. Either we are going to move it forward, or we are going to roll it back.”
Gonsalves, although not fully knocking down Golding’s recommendation, indicated that all factors were not taken into account by the commission, including the need for an executive enforcement system to make sure states comply with trading and other rules and proper resources for the secretariat.
“My friend, Bruce Golding, the principal author of the report, is unrealistically optimistic that these bits-and-pieces measures would cure the central governance limitations in respect of the single market and economy. Only a well-constructed, authoritative executive CARICOM commission will be able to push and manage it as a lived reality. And I do not think, too, that there is a political market for such an executive commission,” Gonsalves said.