Sunday, May 19, 2013

Kick CARICOM to the kerb (Part 2)

By Ronald Mason, Jamaica Gleaner Contributor:


 


It would be foolhardy at the commencement of any trial for attorneys to believe they will be persuasive with only an opening statement. I dare not believe that, and as such I welcome the dialogue triggered by the response to my column on May 5.


I do not fear globalisation because this country can rival others on the world stage in the areas of our competitive advantage. Think coffee, bauxite, ginger, cocoa, tourism, music, aggregate, track and field, and the history of sugar. However, let me advance the argument for our withdrawal from CARICOM on the cold, hard realities.

FACT 1: There is a geographic, cultural, interpersonal relationship among people in the Eastern Caribbean. The distance between Antigua & Barbuda in the north and Trinidad & Tobago in the south is 445 miles. The distance between Jamaica and Trinidad is 1,151 miles. The constant flow of commerce and people in the Eastern Caribbean is undisputed. Farmers in Dominica help to feed Antigua. Trinidad and Barbados have disputes born out of territorial proximity. The Leeward and Windward Islands each present teams in Caribbean cricket.

The population in each member state of CARICOM, not counting Jamaica and Haiti, ranges from 6,000 in Montserrat to 1.34 million in Trinidad. There is a forum of seven member states and two associated states with a total population of 636,000 persons. Schooners and ferries bridge the islands in the east. They have a basis for this creature called CARICOM.

FACT 2: In recognition of how much the states in the Eastern Caribbean are interdependent, they created, from as far as back as 1981, the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States. It is an intergovernmental organisation dedicated to economic harmonisation and integration, and protection of human and legal rights. They are all virtually contiguous in their boundaries.

On August 13, 2008, the leaders of Trinidad & Tobago, Grenada, St Lucia, and St Vincent & the Grenadines announced their intention to pursue a subregional 'political union'. A 2013 target date was set for full political union for these countries. (CANA, October 24, 2008) Notice, they did not invite Jamaica. Note also that on June 21, 2010, they signed the treaty that established their countries as a single economic and financial space.

The promise of "joint action" and "joint policies" within areas such as the judiciary and administration of justice, external relations, including overseas representation, international trade agreements, education, telecommunications, intellectual property rights, external transportation, and connections and public administrations and management.

This is a single space without common external boundaries. A country in every respect. No Jamaica. If it looks like a duck, waddles like a duck, quacks like duck, it is a duck. They only associate with Jamaica because we represent the easier trade destination that satisfies their economies of scale. Jamaica is half the market of CARICOM, without Haiti.

A decline in trade deficit

FACT 3: Jamaica has had, for years, a large trade deficit with CARICOM, not factoring Haiti, and a trade surplus with Haiti. Jamaica's trade deficit with CARICOM for January-November 2012 (latest figures available) is US$743.5m, a decline of US$157m recorded the previous year, largely caused by reduced spending on fuel. Jamaica, for the same period, exported US$76.8m. Most of the inbound trade is with Trinidad and Tobago. The peanuts, biscuits, candy, etc.

FACT 4: Chapter 5, Part 3 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas addresses the issue of subsidies by one member of CARICOM to the detriment of the other. Trinidad owns Caribbean Airlines. Ask Grenada's prime minister why he recently had to comment on the impact Trinidad's full subsidy is having on LIAT, part owned by Grenada.

Remember when we were dumb enough to believe that integration included Jamaica and proposed an aluminium smelter with its demand for lots of aluminium ingots to be located in Trinidad and Tobago using Jamaican bauxite to improve value added for aluminium? Never materialised.

FACT 5: Remember how the Dominican Republic accessed CARIFORUM for the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement? There is your blueprint, as the Dominican Republic is not a member of CARICOM.

FACT 6: The language of Article 45 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas references the movement of nationals across the region. Here is the direct quote: "Member states commit themselves to the GOAL [emphasis mine] of free movement of their nationals within the Community." A goal, that's all. Yet Jamaica allows Eastern Caribbean people to come here without reservation, while reciprocity, at the same rate and without discriminatory barbs, is often denied Jamaicans.

Last week, there was news of the dispute between Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica regarding lube oil. This arose between private interests in Jamaica and entities that are publicly owned by T&T. Yes, governments do not trade, but they are players in field of international commerce. This action, by design or neglect, results in a breach of trade protocols. Some members of the Jamaican business community have long complained about the lax CARICOM conditionalities. I provided an airing of the oft-whispered sentiments.

I never suggested that Jamaica should go it alone. We have multiple trade agreements, and currently Costa Rica is under consideration. The United States is our largest trading partner. O for the distinction and awareness of reading and comprehension!

That we should deal with the world as it is and forge our way therein as best we can has been misinterpreted as supportive of Jamaica's isolation. Far from being isolationist, we should forge links with the larger markets of Haiti, Cuba, Dominican Republic, North America and Latin America where the business community of traders can enjoy economies of scale.

GraceKennedy and other Jamaican corporate entities are making their entry into Ghana. They can continue to set up entities and trade with whomever, and they should. But do not presume it can only be done by integration, commercial or political.

Ronald Mason is an immigration attorney/mediator. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com and nationsagenda@gmail.com.

May 19, 2013

Kick CARICOM to the kerb (Part 1)

Jamaica Gleaner