Regional integration should be bigger than CARICOM

GEORGETOWN, Guyana, April 29, 2008 – There’s been a suggestion that the Caribbean integration process include other islands outside the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

It has come form President of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC), Nigel John, who along with CARICOM Secretary-General Edwin Carrington, lead a joint mission to the island of St. Maarten which is separated into the Dutch side Sint Maarten and the French side Saint Martin.

Among the main items of discussion during the visit was the possibility of increasing trade in agricultural products in particular to enhance Sint Maarten’s capacity to provide for its population as well as its significant tourist arrivals.

Mr John emphasised the need for more efficient and voluminous trade with Sint Maarten.

“We need to explore avenues for expansion into the wider Caribbean,” he said. “Integration would make no sense if it does not encompass other islands of the Caribbean even if not at the same level.”

Sint Maarten has indicated a willingness to attend the CARICOM Regional Agriculture Investment Forum which takes place in Guyana from June 6 to 7 and Mr Carrington suggested that the presence of a delegation from the island and the wider Dutch Caribbean could lead to strengthening the relationship between the Community and these territories and a continuation of the dialogue.

Speaking at the end of the joint mission, the Secretary-General said he was looking forward to more effective co-operation between CARICOM and Sint Maarten and other Dutch territories as CARICOM moved to make the region ‘A Community for All’.

The Netherlands Antilles is engaged in discussion with the Kingdom of the Netherlands with respect to establishing a new constitutional arrangement for its Caribbean territories which include Sint Maarten. The Secretary-General said the completion of this process was a pre-requisite for CARICOM to look at ways of facilitating closer ties between those territories and the Community – a process which could be enhanced through improved communication and information links.

The visit to Sint Maarten is the second in seven months by the Secretary-General to a Dutch Caribbean territory, having visited Curacao last September. Following that visit, the Netherlands Antilles was accepted last October as an Observer at the meetings of CARICOM’s Council for Human and Social Development.