Prime Minister Andrew Holness made that clear on Tuesday as he closed the debate on the CARICOM report in the House of Representatives.
The House of Representatives on Tuesday adopted the Report of the Commission to Review Jamaica’s Relations within the CARICOM and CARIFORUM Frameworks. The report was prepared by the Commission, chaired by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
The Commission was charged with evaluating the effects of Jamaica’s membership in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on the country’s economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and job creation.
Prime Minister Holness said that since tabling the report in February of this year, the entire region has awaited the Government’s final position on the document.
“I think it only appropriate that they be granted the requisite bipartisan consideration, so that they may be duly shared with my CARICOM colleagues for discussion at the upcoming Regular Meeting of the Conference in July,” the Prime Minister said.
He told parliament that the Report had 33 key recommendations, which boldly project a way forward in addressing aspects of regional relationships that are not fully meeting their intended objectives.
“Our extensive review of the report has identified recommendations at various stages of readiness for implementation, including some that may not be within our reach at this time for various reasons,” Mr. Holness said.
Among the recommendations in the report are full free movement of people throughout the Community, subject only to exclusions for security and public health reasons; harmonisation of customs laws, regulations and procedures, especially in the treatment of perishable goods; and agreed protocols on sanitary and phytosanitary standards and procedures.
On the matter of integrated capital markets, the Prime Minister said it is believed that an agreed protocol for cross-border regulatory cooperation is essential to any custom union.
“In this regard, we support the view that this recommendation is attainable within the next three years. However, we are also mindful that many member states are currently at various stages of reform to bring their regulatory landscape in line with institutional standards. Consequently, there may be need to apply some flexibility with respect to the timeline for full implementation by all member states,” Mr. Holness said.
On the right of establishment, as well as the services market, Mr. Holness said these recommendations are well-founded, as member states participating in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) have an obligation to remove restrictions on the right of establishment and the right to provide services across the region.
“In relation to the right of establishment, all member states are to pass the requisite Regulation to facilitate the movement of managerial, technical and supervisory staff. Jamaica is also assessing its implementation of the regime, to ensure that no further restrictions exist. Jamaica has enacted the CARICOM Community Establishment, Services, Capital and Movement of Community Nationals Act 2004,” Mr. Holness noted.
“From a legal perspective, the Commission’s proposal… on the full free movement of persons throughout the Community, which is subject only to exclusions for security and public health reasons, is quite feasible and consistent with the rulings of the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ),” he added.
The Prime Minister explained that it will now be a matter for the organs and bodies of CARICOM, in consultation with the respective members states, to decide whether these goals may be attainable within a five-year time period.
As it relates to the removal of all non-tariff barriers to trade, Mr. Holness said CARICOM has done considerable work in its efforts to implement a myriad of harmonisation protocols and policies to minimise obstacles to trade in this area.
These, he said, include the establishment of various regulatory mechanisms, namely the Caribbean Agriculture, Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) and CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).
“Notwithstanding the existence of these mechanisms, as well as the various monitoring frameworks, there are still significant challenges being experienced as manifested in ongoing disputes among member states,” the Prime Minister argued.
For his part, Leader of the Opposition, Dr. Peter Phillips, also welcomed the report, noting that it is an “extensive and representative national effort,” which involved widespread consultations, not only within Jamaica but across the Caribbean.
“I think it represents an important and good starting point, and what I would propose is that it become the template that we should ask the assembled Heads of Government of CARICOM to utilise, as they collectively embrace the need to move forward to implement the single market and economy, and to review other aspects of the CARICOM experience,” Dr. Phillips said.
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