Signing the CARICOM Treaty of Chaguaramas – Trinidad & Tobago – 4 July 1973
Seated from Left to Right: Prime Ministers Errol Barrow for Barbados; Forbes Burnham for Guyana; Eric Williams for Trinidad and Tobago; and Michael Manley for Jamaica
Source: Chaguaramas Development Authority (www.chagdev.com)
On 4 July 2013, the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) celebrated its fortieth anniversary. The Treaty of Chaguaramas establishing the Community was the vision of the leaders of Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago. As leaders of newly independent nations, the majority small islands, they perceived a need for cooperation for development. At the time, their focus was on economic integration, foreign policy coordination, and cooperation in areas affecting human and social development.
The Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, signed on 5 July 2001, went beyond with the inclusion of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), established in 1989. Globalization had changed the world market. For leaders across the region, the Single Market was important to achieve sustained economic development based on international competitiveness, coordinated economic and foreign policies, functional cooperation and enhanced trade and economic relations with third States. It is clear from the Preamble that the signatories were fully aware of the challenges ahead and the need for change.
The Single Market, launched under the Revised Treaty in 2006, has yet to be fully implemented across the region. Statistics available for intra-regional trade for the period 2007-2012 show little growth over the period. Oil-rich Trinidad and Tobago dominate total trade in the region. In Jamaica, some factions blame the common external tariff for the country’s large trade deficit.
Like the European Union (EU), CARICOM is much more than trade and business. Over the past forty years, several institutions were established for formulating policies and executing functions in critical social and economic areas. Peoples across member states have benefited from the achievements and success of these institutions.
CARICOM’s four founding fathers have passed away. Their vision for our region has yet to be fully realized. Under Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque, appointed in August 2011, the community is undergoing a period of renewal and change. These are formidable economic times for small vulnerable developing nations. Old ways of thinking and behaving must be put aside. As an integrated region, we stand a better chance of dealing with current dilemmas and those that lie ahead. The challenges of climate change, bringing more severe hurricanes and rising sea levels, are already upon us and must be addressed.
CARICOM remains alive today because it serves a vital function for the peoples of the region. Without it, our individual sovereign states will fall prey to transnational corporations, intent on controlling Earth’s natural resources.
When my Guyana Passport expires in 2014, I will be issued with a CARICOM Passport, initially introduced to promote hassle-free travel for nationals within the region. While my new passport will not guarantee ease of travel within the region, as I have learned from recent Caribbean news reports, it will concretize my new identity.
I am an emerging Caribbean novelist born in the member state of Guyana. I have to give that some serious thought.