Overcoming DR’s Caricom hurdle
SOME CRITICS of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) may wonder why it is that the Dominican Republic’s repeated request to access membership of our regional economic integration movement is yet to get a positive response.
A quick, short answer could perhap be in one word – trade! With the exception of Trinidad and Tobago, which continues to market itself as “the gateway” to Latin America – an objective analysis would confirm reservations by CARICOM member states on being seriously disadvantaged with the removal of the Common External Tariff to facilitate the Dominican Republic as a new member of the current group of 15 – without adjustment measures.
Reasonable, as it appears, therein lies a contradiction. For, like member states of CARICOM, the Dominican Republic is also a signatory to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). Indeed, the EU negotiators were quite eager to have the Dominican Republic in the EPA, consistent with their own strategies to also access the much wider Latin America market.
A question of relevance, therefore, for those in favour of the Dominican Republic’s membership of CARICOM is this: For how long could our regional economic integration movement continue to delay that Spanish-speaking Caribbean state’s plea to “let us in”? When, that is, our Community is already granting relevant trade concessions to the European Union under the EPA?
In their own haste – unlike their partners in Africa within the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States – to conclude signing the EPA with the EU, CARICOM governments may have overlooked the reservations they are now seeking to come to terms with for delaying the Dominican Republic’s revived request to access membership, as made known during its president’s special guest appearance for last week’s Port of Spain summit.
There seems the need for new approaches by both sides – CARICOM and the Dominican Republic – to resolve lingering reservations on prevailing barriers over trade, services and economic investment opportunities. Except now, more than previously, the Community’s private sector must reveal a necessary enthusiasm for and commitment to achieving an enlightened, practical relationship.
After all, when CARICOM was inaugurated, the architects were quite conscious of the need for a “wider” and “deeper” regional economic integration movement. That vision was to inspire them to help make a reality of what exists today, with secretariat headquarters in Port of Spain, as the Association of Caribbean States, the founding members of which include Cuba, historically an ally, and the Dominican Republic.
It would not have escaped attention that while the United States stubbornly refuses to deal realistically with Cuba, it continues to passionately maintain its relations with the Dominican Republic. Both of these Caribbean nations happen to be members of the CARIFORUM group – the primary vehicle with which this region conducts business with the EU.
Perhaps CARICOM should sensitize the people of this region to the major hurdles to be overcome in order for a final decision to be made to extend membership to the Dominican Republic, with which there’s already significant collaboration.