Prime Minister Bruce Golding says Jamaica and the rest of the Caribbean need to be liberated from the nostalgia of an era of protective market when they could punish their consumers as they chose, by shutting their borders so that foreign goods could not easily come in and consumers were condemned to substandard products.
‘We do not now have, and we never will have, the market size, depth or strength to provide a platform for real sustained dynamic growth in the Caribbean,” Golding told participants at a conference on ‘Implementing the Economic Partnership Agreement’ (EPA) recently at the Hilton hotel in Kingston.
Golding said if an assessment of the purchasing power of the 15 countries that make up the Caribbean, was done , we would realise that this does not provide sufficient strength or space for real investment and growth.
“Intra-regional trade which is something we have concentrated on within Caricom does benefit some countries at the expense of others because what that has done is simply to displace each other in our various markets. What we have effectively done is to pursue a glorious adventure in the redistribution of poverty.
“Let’s put the 15-pair of eyes together (of the Caricom group) and see how we can better see the opportunities that are out there. That’s when regional integration will begin to make good sense because then we can see how we can partner among ourselves as Caricom countries to tackle that vast market out there and to exploit the opportunities because no one country, not even Trinidad can do it on its own,” Mr. Golding asserted.
He noted that even before the EPA, we have not yet seen a company in Trinidad, Jamaica or Barbados getting together to develop the synergies and get the economies of scale going to so that we can trade with Europe. The Prime Minister said the region’s hopes for growth are inextricably tied to trade and to its ability to penetrate and maintain markets where the demand is exponentially greater than we will ever be able to create ourselves.
The EPA introduces a two way free trade area with Europe for goods and services and is based on the premise that through regional integration, business development and investment, the region will be able to increase its levels of competitiveness and growth and to better insert itself into the global economy.
The Kingston conference was organized by the Caribbean Council and the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce with support from the government of Jamaica and the British Foreign and Commonwealth office to explore how the EPA will be implemented by both Europe and the Caribbean.