Caricom “on target” to remove 6-month limit stay in CSME countries – PM Mottley

…as DR, Martinique associate membership status being considered

The Caribbean Community (Caricom) is on target to meet the March 31, 2024 deadline for extending the stay limit for regional citizens visiting Member States.
Currently, citizens from one Caricom country travelling to another State in the Region are given a six-month limit to stay there. However, under the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) initiative, there is a push to have full freedom of movement within Member States by removing the stay limit.

From left: Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis; Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley; Caricom Chairman and President of Guyana, Dr Irfaan Ali and Grenada Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell at the closing press conference on Wednesday evening

At the July 2023 Heads of Government Meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago, regional leaders had committed to work towards the free movement of all Caricom nationals within the Region by March 31, 2024. To achieve this, it was agreed that any appropriate amendments to the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas would be dealt with during the period leading up to that deadline.
During the closing press conference on Wednesday following the recently-concluded Heads of Government Meeting held in Guyana earlier this week, Barbadian Prime Minister Mia Mottley provided an update on this matter, stating “we’re on target”.
According to PM Mottley, there were only two policy issues that were referred to the Heads of Government during the meeting this week to settle. Having had the intervention of regional leaders, the inter-governmental taskforce will now meet on March 7 to finalise the necessary documents.
Then on the following day, the Legal Affairs Committee will sign off on the drafts after which those documents will be presented to the Heads of Government at a March 15 meeting.
“[There is] hope that we can sign off in time [ahead of] the deadline given in Trinidad of the 31st March for the full freedom of movement of people… What we’re taking about is removing that six months’ constraint but we equally have to understand what are the minimum rights that are guaranteed to our citizens when they move from one country to the other, and those are being resolved right now,” the Barbadian Prime Minister stated.
While there was a renewed push for free movement, not all Caricom Member States are fully on board – at least not as yet. Freedom of movement within the Region is one of components of the CSME, but not all Caricom Member States, such as the Bahamas, have signed onto the single market and economy initiative hence this free movement concept was not applicable to those nations.
Grenadian Prime Minister Dickon Mitchell, who will take over the chairmanship of Caricom from President Dr Irfaan Ali in July, explained during Wednesday’s press conference that even for those CSME participating countries, some of them have requested to have the issue of a caveat be considered.
“Essentially, caveat in terms of a longer time period before they get to a point of full free movement. So, that is being discussed,” the Grenadian leader stated.
While he opted not name those countries that asked for the caveat, PM Mitchell noted that the other Member States have committed to meet the March month-end deadline.
Meanwhile, in addition to the movement of people, Prime Minister Mottley also spoke on the integration of regional businesses under the CSME initiative. Regional leaders have agreed to get a mutual recognition of companies across the Community established by the upcoming meeting set for July in Grenada.
“To allow people the right to move and then tell them that they have to pay separate sums to form companies – the same company, doing the same business – in each of the countries they’re going in is a burden too heavy for you to carry in a single market and single economy,” the Bajan leader stressed.
To this end, PM Mottley noted that Caricom would have to engage international bodies such as the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) since many of the corporate registries in the Region are the subject of much of the discussions when it comes to integrating the Caribbean into the global financial sector.
This, according to the Barbados Prime Minister, needs a common digital platform for regional companies so that their registration in one Member State can be accessed and used in another country. She added that the necessary Information Communication Technology (ICT) experts will have to be in place as well as the consequential amendments required to make this a reality.
Meanwhile, the Caricom leaders also discussed the issue of new membership during their engagements over the three-day conference earlier. Specifically, they looked at requests by the Dominican Republic and Martinique to become Associate Members of the 15-member regional bloc.
President Ali, the current Caricom Chairman, told reporters at the press conference on Wednesday that the process to facilitate the request of the two Caribbean countries have already been activated and is being dealt with by the Georgetown-based Secretariat.
“The [Caricom] Secretariat is going to work with both Martinique and the DR to fulfil the procedural aspect of things so by the time we get to July [for the next Heads of Government Meeting in Grenada], the full mechanism would be applied and recommendations would come to the Heads,” the Caricom Chairman noted.
The Dominican Republic has previously applied for associate membership status with Caricom twice – in the late 1980s and then again in 2013, when discussions were suspended over the Spanish-speaking nation’s treatment of citizens from neighbouring crisis-ridden Haiti – a full Caricom member.
During Wednesday’s press conference, Bahamas Prime Minister Philip Davis told reporters that this issue was part of the procedural process that the Caricom Secretariat is looking at as it considered DR’s request to join the regional bloc.
“Part of the procedural process is to work through that and there have been some progress in achieving a resolution of that issue… Work has been continuing, it came out and we recognise what some issues are, and those issues would be worked out between the Dominican Republic and our Secretariat,” PM Davis stated. (G8)