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Regional Leaders Urged to Pursue Partnerships to Address Issues

Written by: Chris Patterson

Regional leaders have been urged to actively pursue partnerships to address issues of free movement, non-tariff barriers to trade, and reliable and affordable transportation, which are all fundamental to a truly integrated Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

The call was made by Chairman of CARICOM and Prime Minister of Dominica, Hon. Roosevelt Skerrit, at the recent opening of the 45th Regular Meeting of Heads, which ends today (July 5), in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

“I pose a question to all of us, one that I am sure is on the minds of all citizens of this region: What is really preventing us from reviving the Single Domestic Space that once allowed our citizens to traverse freely across our region?” he said.

“We have already tried and tested the Advanced Passenger Information System (APIS), which allows Immigration and Security personnel in each of our countries full access to the details of every passenger boarding an aircraft or ferry. The APIS system also makes a nonsense of the continued use of ED (Embarkation/Disembarkation) forms,” he added.

Mr. Skerrit said the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security System (IMPACS) and the Regional Security System (RSS) are both well equipped to complement the workings of APIS.

“It is time to make intra-regional travel a joy rather than a hassle. Sixteen years ago, we showed considerable commitment and political will to allow our people to move freely through 10 Member States. It worked then; it can work now,” he argued.

The Chairman said that similar political will must be brought to bear on the issue of expansion of the categories for free movement of skilled nationals to benefit the growth and expansion of the regional economy.

“The reality is that in any free-trade arrangement within an integration movement, there will be those who benefit more than others. We recognise this in our Revised Treaty. It is, therefore, incumbent upon us all to strive to increase the ability of the less endowed to participate more fully in the trading arrangements,” he said.

Mr. Skerrit pointed out that the movement of people and goods is the backbone of a successful integration arrangement.

“We have done all the studies, and the statistics point us to the favourable outcome of an effective transportation system. I accept that this is a challenge that requires investments which may not see an immediate return. It requires confidence that the provision of such a service will boost commercial opportunities and encourage more intra-regional travel,” he said.

Mr. Skerrit said the drive to reduce the food import bill by 25 per cent by 2025 depends in large measure on intra-regional transportation.

“The early indications are that our agricultural sector and our farmers are rising to the challenge. We need our entrepreneurs, therefore, to look favourably upon the opportunities available in the transportation sector and be there for the long haul,” he said.

Meanwhile, he reiterated CARICOM’s commitment to support the Haitian people and to broker a Haitian-led solution to the instability that they now face.

“It is a crisis that requires our continued support and the support of the wider international community. The initial outreach has met with generally favourable reactions,” Mr. Skerrit said.

“We are well aware that it is just the beginning, and our engagement must build from that and we must keep the dialogue going until there is not only light at the end of the tunnel but a station for the stakeholders to disembark from the train, united in purpose and action,” he added.

The Chairman said he was encouraged by the engagement of youth and their involvement in advancing the objectives of CARICOM and becoming productive global citizens.

“My dear friends, the region’s 11 million young people are depending on this CARICOM to play a leading role in crime prevention and the elimination of its harmful effects on citizens and societies,” Mr. Skerrit said.

“Our students are depending on us to harmonise our regional education systems and to set targeted learning outcomes to prepare millennials to not just survive but to thrive in a fast-paced global economy… to reconstruct a classroom layout and timetable that promotes the development of the holistic child grounded in culture and values,” he added.

The Chairman said unity in economic well-being, security, health and disaster management must be translated into all processes.

The Caribbean Community was established on July 4, 1973 with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas in Trinidad and Tobago.