CARICOM Secretary General Edwin Carrington urged trade ministers to implement agreements, noting that eight years after the decision to allow the free movement of skilled persons it was still to be implemented.
He was speaking at the opening of the Fourteenth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at Le Meridien Pegasus on Friday. He pointed to the glaring evidence of "our shortcoming" following the decision taken in July 1995 to implement with effect from January 1, 1996 "the free movement of CARICOM nationals who are university graduates, subject to the acceptability of their credentials by the member state concerned."
Later in 1996 in Bridgetown another decision was taken to conclude arrangements prior to the next meeting of the Heads of Government. The free movement of skills was extended to cover artistes, sports persons, musicians and media workers but without effect. A final adjustment to bring this measure in place by December 31 last year is still awaiting implementation.
Noting that the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) would take centre stage at the meeting, he said other pressing matters such as transportation and the aviation industry which were faced with a number of difficulties would be discussed.
Apart from issues of bilateral trade negotiations, the approach by Brazil for negotiations of a trade agreement between MERCOSUR and CARICOM are to be discussed. Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) issues, the CRNM Strategic Plan and Work plan for 2003 to 2004 are also on the agenda.
Carrington said the region must equip the Regional Negotiating Machinery with the capacity to defend the region's interests and ambitions. Whatever partnerships are forged, he said, they must be anchored on foundations built internally in the single market and economy or "we may find ourselves adrift in that turbulent sea."
He noted that the world was teetering on the brink of a war and Venezuela was locked in a bitter internal conflict. Both of these could impact on the community in terms of the price of oil and on tourism.
Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation Clement Rohee said that CARICOM countries could not, on the one hand call for the removal of the barriers to trade, subsidies and other trade-distorting measures while at the same time maintaining similar measures and practices as they proceeded toward a single market economy. He urged them to avoid duplicity and engaging in double standards in so far as trade practices were concerned. He said that trade distorting measure against one member hurts the whole community.