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OECS States consider "their place" in the CSME

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Contact: Claudia Monlouis

Thursday, July 07, 2005 - Heads of State have acknowledged concerns that size and limited resources are elements which predispose the sub-region to a disadvantaged spot in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy CSME.

During the 26th Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM OECS leaders such as Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer used the forum to draw attention to the place of the OECS in the CSME process.

Dr. Anthony in his opening address to the conference made it clear that many OECS economies are experiencing fiscal deficits and balance of payment pressures. The Prime Minister also noted that the OECS export performance has been inferior, compared to the more developed states in the grouping.

Defining Trinidad and Tobago as the prime beneficiary of the CSME, Prime Minister Anthony highlighted contrasting figures in trade between Trinidad and Tobago and the sub – region.

“Whereas the OECS current account has widened significantly due to export performance deterioration, Trinidad and Tobago has been able to increase its current accounts surplus via increased exports of goods and services. These imbalances are temporary but structural. They reflect real differences in economic capacity, factor prices Labour market conditions, resource endowments and economies of scale in the production and export of goods and services.”

In this context Prime Minister Anthony is calling for a review of Chapter 7 of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which deals with disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors.

In the Revised Treaty the Council for Trade and Economic Development - COTED - is an organ formed to ensure the economic vulnerability of disadvantaged countries is taken into account.

The body also has powers to take measures and introduce interventions to ensure cases of economic dislocation arising from the CSME, remain minimal.

Meantime addressing concerns head on, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Patrick Manning has assured member states that decisions likely to influence other islands will not be taken based simply on sovereign self interest. He promised due consideration will be given to any disadvantages from the implementation of the CSME for other member states.

According to the Trinidadian leader, his government is setting an early example, in how the relationship of Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the region will continue to be defined. “In terms of drug interdiction, we are today, installing in Trinidad and Tobago, a state of the art high resolution radar system and we’re going to back it up, with armed helicopters, two of which are on order an the radar system will be completely in place by the end of July; but when we create Fortress Trinidad and Tobago what is going to be consequence. The consequence will be the drug dealers will concentrate on other islands in the Caribbean which are more vulnerable.”

As a result Mr. Manning said Trinidad has extended the aerial surveillance proposal to the islands in the Southern Caribbean including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Saint Lucia.

“Very shortly, the discussions indeed have already started; we are going to engage in discussions with these three countries to see whether we could not extend that radar system to Grenada and St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia. We have to be our brothers’ keeper.”

For his part Prime Minister Spencer says Antigua and Barbuda and the wider OECS countries must seek Special and Differential Treatment based on size and levels of development.

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