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OUR CARIBBEAN: Time for Caricom’s say

Rickey Singh, [email protected]

OUR CARIBBEAN: Time for Caricom’s say

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EXCEPT FOR THE OCCASIONAL verbal skirmishes over claimed unfair intra-regional trade practices, or the eruption of short-lived disputes involving discriminatory practices by immigration services against CARICOM nationals, the government leaders of our regional economic integration movement remain seemingly satisfied with their customary public silence as they prepare for another scheduled annual summit.

Consequently, amid the international excitement and political tension relating to CARICOM’s two most important foreign allies in trade, economic development and cultural relations – Britain and the United States – the collective silence of our leaders remains disturbingly deafening as they move towards their 37th annual summit, this time in Guyana July 4-6.

Firm ally

While Canada continues to fill a most significant third place in the listing of the Caribbean diaspora and remains a firm ally of CARICOM, the reality is that both Britain’s likely departure from the European Union (EU) and the possible election of the unprepared, unpredictable billionaire Donald Trump as the next US president in November could well prove quite disturbing developments for the Caribbean/Latin American region.

Yet, given the sustained public silence of the Heads of Government of CARICOM, it would be quite difficult to arrive at a sensible understanding of where they individually or collectively stand on these very important international developments.

This silence could perhaps also explain the absence of a response from the Community’s Council of Foreign Ministers on both the so-called “Brexit” (Britain’s exit from the EU) and the possibility of a Trump presidency.

Seemingly gone are the days when such cabinet colleagues of heads of government would be mindful to offer informed, relevant responses to regional/international development issues. Are they now being muzzled, lack the required competence or simply not sure of the position of their own government?

I am aware that, currently, there are three governments in CARICOM with a mere one-seat parliamentary majority – Guyana, Jamaica and St Vincent  and the Grenadines. But I remain quite surprised by their public silence on the likely implications for the Caribbean Community of both issues.           

Observer status

In relation to the EU, with which CARICOM states also have Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) – encouraged by Britain – it’s also relevant to reference that the United Kingdom holds observer status within CARIFORUM (our Community plus the UK and the Dominican Republic). Consequently, Britain’s decision to either remain or exit the EU must be of keen interest to CARICOM.

If our governments’ public silence/inaction on Britain’s referendum is understandably a matter of concern, then so too must be the case in relation to the region’s private sector.

Why the apparent disinterest or lack of concern also by the region’s normally vocal “captains of industry”?

For that matter, and ahead of next month’s CARICOM summit, is there the likelihood of a consultation involving representatives of government, the private sector as well as leading non-governmental organisations on the implications for the Caribbean of Britain’s exit from the EU and Trump’s election?

To be sensitised by such a democratic, consultative process could prove quite useful in helping to inform constructive responses at the CARICOM summit. We must wait for this surprise!

• Rickey Singh is a noted Caribbean journalist.