Caribbean Economic Integration

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In a step that brings Caribbean nations closer to full economic integration, members of the Caribbean Community, or Caricom, formally launched a single market in January that allows goods, services and skilled workers to move more easily throughout the region. The establishment of the Caribbean Single Market Economy is good news for U.S.-based entrepreneurs, particularly Caribbean Americans, looking to do business in that region, says Roy A. Hastick Sr., president of the Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and Industry, in Brooklyn, N.Y.

“It’s going to strengthen the entrepreneurial spirit in the Caribbean. The benefits to the Caribbean diaspora will be tremendous because of the fact that you have a lot of Caribbean American entrepreneurs here who contribute to the economies of the Caribbean islands. Many of them will be looking for joint venture operations,” he says.

The Chamber of Commerce and Industry is establishing a Caribbean Trade Center in the commercial corridor of East Flatbush, Brooklyn, an area heavily populated by Caribbean Americans.

Caribbean Americans, who number about 3 million, contribute billions of dollars to the region in cash remittances, goods, professional services and investment. In fact, says Hastick, most

Caribbean governments consider the Caribbean diaspora a constituency outside the Caribbean. “I think it’s a plus, a historic initiative that needs to be nurtured, promoted and taken advantage of,” he says.

On Jan. 30, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad officially launched the agreement establishing the Caribbean Single Market Economy, or CSME, under which participating countries will eliminate tariffs on goods traded among themselves and establish a common external tariff for imports from outside the region. Citizens of CSME countries will be able to open businesses, provide services and move capital throughout the market without restrictions. CSME members will replace national travel documents with a regional passport by 2007. They also will have access to free-trade agreements Caricom has established with Colombia, Cuba, Costa Rica, the Dominican Republic and Venezuela.

Caricom members St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Antigua and Dominica signed a declaration of intent to join the Single Market by the end of March, but the Bahamas opted to stay out, fearing the free movement of professionals would overrun its work force. Haiti has been suspended from the community because of political instability.