Private sector has its own responsibility to encourage, stimulate intra-regional trade

Dear Editor,
I write in response to comments attributed to the Vice-President of the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry in your edition of 29 January 2020.
The Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) has time and again in public statements laid out the role and functions of the Caricom Secretariat. This is also available on the Secretariat’s various social media platforms and information booklets as well as in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
In keeping with its role and functions as designated by the Revised Treaty, the Secretariat has been assiduously laying the groundwork for the main users of the integration arrangements – the private sector and the citizens of the Community. What we have done is to put the framework in place.
The legislative instruments, the policy documents, the administrative procedures which allow for the benefits of integration to be enjoyed have either been drafted or completed. On-going sensitisation sessions, workshops and consultations have been conducted nationally and regionally to make all stakeholders, inclusive of the public and private sectors and civil society, aware of the provisions that they can utilise. These are matters within the remit of the Secretariat.
The private sector has its own responsibility to encourage and stimulate intra-regional trade by reaching out to their colleagues in other Member States among other things. In that regard, the recent visit by the Jamaica trade mission to Guyana must be highly commended. Indeed, in his meetings with national private sector organisations, the Secretary-General has been a strong advocate for such initiatives.
The Secretary-General has also been a driving force for greater involvement of the private sector in the deliberations of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED). Further, last July, accepting an initiative from the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Hon Mia Amor Mottley, the Heads of Government agreed that a regional body, the Caricom Private Sector Organisation, duly constituted, will become an Associate Institution of the Community.
In reference to the challenges posed by non-tariff barriers, the Revised Treaty sets out a range of dispute settlement options which can be utilised by Member States on behalf of their private sector.
The Caricom Secretariat is not a funding agency. Further, it cannot mobilise funds for individual organisations or groups. However, Caribbean Export, which began as a project of the Caricom Secretariat and was created specifically to promote trade, and is now an agency of CARIFORUM, does provide financial support to the private sector for trade-related activity intra-regionally. All our Member States, except Montserrat, are members of CARIFORUM.
The private sector has a critical role to play in the stimulation of development through trade and other economic initiatives that take advantage of the Community frameworks that have been put in place by regional governments with the help of the Secretariat.

Yours sincerely,
Leonard Robertson
Office of the
Caricom Secretariat