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Opportunities for private sector in CSME
Over the years the Caricom Single Market Economy (CSME) has come under much criticisms for failing to make progress in integrating economies within the Caricom region.
Next year makes it 30 years since the decision was made to establish a single market and economy in a region with diverse economies and levels of development.
Whether it is in the area of free movement of people, or a unified approach to negotiating the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, or dealing with other developmental issues, there has never been a shortage of criticisms.
However, Ambassador Irwin La Rocque, secretary general of Caricom, says there are ways to make it easier for the private sector to function across the region. He is urging the region’s private sector to use the opportunities provided by the CSME.
“While the CSME continues to be a work in progress, it is sufficiently advanced to be used more effectively by the private sector. There has been significant progress in several ways,” La Rocque said when he addressed a recent Manufacturers Association (TTMA) meeting in Port-of-Spain.
“There is free trade of goods and services, free movement of skills and capital and the cross-border establishment of businesses. The Common External Tariff (CET) and community rules of origin are operational. However, after 25 years we are doing a comprehensive review of this regime.”
La Rocque said companies operating in other jurisdictions are entitled to move managerial, technical and supervisory staff.
“The Caricom agreement on social security, which is working quite well, allows for the transfer of social security benefits as the experts move to other jurisdictions to work for short periods.”
He added that the Caribbean Court of Justice in its original jurisdiction is fully operational.
“Indeed, Trinidad Cement Ltd was the first private sector entity to bring a matter before the Court against the community and successfully so,” he said.
Progress toward a single economy
La Rocque assured that work is ongoing in trying to build a single economy.
“A draft policy for the legal framework to support the development of an integrated capital market is being considered by member states and a draft policy is under preparation. This bill seeks to standardise licensing requirements for the registration of market participants and securities and the harmonisation of the regulations for the issuance of trading and securities across member states,” he said.
“The implementation of a harmonised securities law will remove the confusion of having to comply with the different laws and improve the ease of doing securities business in the community. It will allow firms to raise capital across member states while providing investors the opportunity in a wider range of financial instruments.”
A Caricom investment policy and investment code which allows for proposals for harmonisation of an investment regime is currently under review for updating and resubmission for consideration by member states.
La Rocque added: “The market for goods and services will be expanded once member states agree to a draft protocol on public procurement. Throughout the region the public sector can play a significant role as a consumer of goods, services and public works. Businesses will have the opportunity to bid on procurement opportunities in member states that would agree to be part of the community public procurement regime. That market within Caricom is estimated at US$5.5 billion.”
He shared the results of a study by the Inter American Development Bank (IDB) which found that Caricom inter-regional trade can double from its current 16 per cent of total trade if issues relating to transportation, trade facilitation and technical barriers to trade are addressed.
A memorandum of understanding (MOU) recently signed with the World’s Custom Organisation is designed to enhance the professionalism and effectiveness of Caricom’s customs administrations with that organisation’s assistance, he added.
“That should amount to the quicker clearance of goods through customs taking into account the need to safeguard our borders. This contributes to the aim of doing business and also reduce cost for the private sector. Of course, customs procedure is not the only factor in trade diversification,” he said.
According to La Rocque, Caricom is constantly seeking to remove non-tariff barriers.
“In relation to agriculture and food products, we are in the process of addressing issues with regard to sanitary measures and transparency in market entry requirements.
“This will include harmonising laws, administrative practices and procedures. Regrettably, these measures are being used as a barrier to trade and that must be addressed urgently. It is affecting inter-regional trade,” he said.
Also being established is an online company registry.
“Though we are not there as yet, the Caricom online company registry does, however, provide a regional electronic platform for online name searches and reservations. Business and company registration and public access to records are among the features where eleven Caricom countries have online registries currently linked to the original registry.”
To facilitate the movement of skilled Caricom nationals and companies seeking to employ specific skills, a regional market information system is close to coming on stream.
“It involves all member states with the exception of the Bahamas. The system will be a central repository for data on the labour markets and allows for better matching of skills and available positions at the regional level to assist in providing the kind of workforce we need.
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