CARICOM: Challenges and Opportunities for Caribbean Economic Integration
Prepared for Members and Committees of Congress
In 1973, the smaller, largely English-speaking countries of the Eastern Caribbean launched the
Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), an integration plan intended to
coordinate and enhance the collective economic and social development of 15 countries. After
three decades of incremental success, CARICOM’s strategy for achieving complete economic
integration now rests on implementing the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME),
formally established on January 1, 2006, and intended to be fully in place by 2015. CARICOM is
a highly trade-dependent region undergoing major changes to its economic relationships with the
world. Adjusting to these changes through the CSME is its primary development challenge. To
realize the CSME vision, the member countries would have to implement considerably deeper
commitments to integration.
The Caribbean Basin has been a long-standing strategic interest of the United States. The success
of CARICOM, as well as the continued stability of the region, have important implications for
U.S. trade, investment, immigration, drug interdiction, and national security policies. Although
small in size, CARICOM’s trade and investment relationship with the United States may become
a more prominent issue as the region adjusts to the changing external environment.
CARICOM faces dual challenges in its quest for economic integration through the CSME. First,
it must complete the intraregional integration scheme, including tightening a loose common
external tariff and intraregional trade policy, integrating more fully labor and capital markets, and
deepening “functional cooperation” – pooling resources to improve efficiency in the delivery of
public services. Second, it must devise and implement strategies for “inserting” the CARICOM
economies into a dynamic and competitive global economy in the wake of expiring preferential
trade arrangements with its two largest trade partners, the United States and the European Union
Two trade policy issues command immediate attention. Implementing the EU Economic
Partnership Agreement (EPA), completed in December 2007, is the first. The EPA is a reciprocal,
WTO-compliant accord that replaces unilateral preferential arrangements in place since 1975.
Second, the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) preferences will expire on
September 30, 2008, unless extended by the U.S. Congress. Although these preferences currently
apply to only seven CARICOM members and have already been eroded considerably by U.S. free
trade agreements with other countries in the region, CARICOM strongly advocates their renewal
and expansion as it evaluates the costs and benefits of pursuing a reciprocal FTA of its own with
the United States. This report evaluates CARICOM’s development and implications for U.S.
foreign economic policy. It will be updated periodically. For more on Caribbean issues, see CRS th
Report RL34157, Caribbean-U.S. Relations: Issues in the 110 Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan,
and CRS Report RL33951, U.S. Trade Policy and the Caribbean: From Trade Preferences to
Free Trade Agreements, by J. F. Hornbeck.
CARICOM: Background and Development....................................................................................1
Early Integration Efforts............................................................................................................4
Challenges to Integration..........................................................................................................6
Transition to the CSME.............................................................................................................8
CARICOM: Trade and Investment with the World.......................................................................10
CARICOM Trade Policy: Strategy and Implementation.........................................................11
CARICOM Direction of Merchandise Trade..........................................................................12
EU and the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).............................................................14
U.S.-CARICOM Trade Relations............................................................................................15
Redefining the U.S.-CARICOM Trade Relationship........................................................18
Internet Gambling Dispute................................................................................................19
WTO and the Doha Round......................................................................................................20
Outlook ........................................................................................................................ .................. 21
Figure 1. Map of the Caribbean Region..........................................................................................2
Figure 2. CARICOM Direction of Merchandise Trade, 2004.......................................................12
Figure 3. CARICOM Trade and Investment Trends, 1994-2004..................................................13
Figure 4. U.S.-CARICOM Merchandise Trade, 2000-2006..........................................................16
Table 1. CARICOM Countries: Selected Indicators........................................................................3
Table 2. CARICOM Intraregional and Extraregional Trade..........................................................11
Table 3. U.S. Foreign Direct Investment in CARICOM...............................................................17
Author Contact Information..........................................................................................................22
n 1973, the smaller, largely English-speaking countries of the Eastern Caribbean launched the
Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), an integration plan intended to
coordinate and enhance their collective economic and social development. Initially designed I
as an intraregional free trade area with expectations that it would become a common market, 1
CARICOM integration has unfolded slowly and been limited to a partial customs union.
CARICOM's strategy for finally achieving a "single economic space" rests on implementing the
Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME), formally established on January 1, 2006 and
intended to be fully in place by 2015. CARICOM is a highly trade dependent region undergoing
major changes to its economic relationship with the world. Adjusting to these changes through the
CSME is its primary development challenge. To fulfill the CSME vision, its members would have
to adopt considerably deeper commitments to economic integration.
The Caribbean Basin has been a longstanding interest of the United States, and the success of
CARICOM directly affects stability in the region. It therefore has important implications for U.S. 2
trade, investment, immigration, drug interdiction, and national security policies. Although small
in size, CARICOM's trade and investment relationship with the United States may be poised to
become a more prominent issue as the region adjusts to the changing external environment, not
the least of which includes the ongoing erosion of trade preferences with Europe and the United
States, as well as the concomitant rise of bilateral and regional free trade agreements in the
region. This report evaluates CARICOM's development and implications for U.S. foreign
economic policy. It will be updated periodically.
The United States has long considered the Caribbean Basin a strategically important region based
on its proximity and unique geographic features. It straddles the divide between North and South
America (see Figure 1), is home to important sea-lanes, raw materials, trade and investment
opportunities, and historically has been a first line defense against the encroachment of foreign
1 A free trade agreement eliminates barriers on goods exchanged among participating countries. In a customs union,
members adopt a common external tariff (CET) and common trade policy toward third-party countries. A common
market goes further, allowing for the free flow of all factors of production (capital and labor) among members.
2 For a broader overview of Caribbean issues, see CRS Report RL34157, Caribbean-U.S. Relations: Issues in the 110th
Congress, by Mark P. Sullivan.
Figure 1. Map of the Caribbean Region
Source: Map Resources. Adapted by CRS.
A broad range of U.S. interests in the region has been reflected in U.S. foreign policies dating th
from the Monroe Doctrine in the early 19 century, through the Cold War era, culminating in the
Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) in the 1980s, to the current effort to thwart illegal drug
trafficking, money laundering, and terrorist activities. In all cases, the United States has sought to
foster social, economic, and political stability in the region, while also maintaining an eye on its
own economic, commercial, and strategic interests.
Table 1. CARICOM Countries: Selected Indicators
Area Per Capita a GDP
Population (sq. IncomeGrowth Life
Member Country (2006) km) (US $) (1984-04) Expectancyb
Antigua and Barbuda 82,000 440 11,482 4.4 —
Bahamas 327,000 14,000 17,432 1.8 69.5
Barbados 270,00430 10,381 1.4 74.9
Belize 276,000 22,960 3,977 6.5 71.9
Dominica 80,000 750 3,643 2.1 —
Grenada 104,000 340 4,386 3.7 —
Guyana 752,000 215,000 1,034 2.3 62.9
Haiti 9,317,0027,750 557 -0.4 59.2
Jamaica 2,662,000 10,990 2,986 1.4 70.7
Montserrat 5,000 102 4,111 — —
St. Kitts and Nevis 43,000 270 8,195 4.5 —
St. Lucia 163,000 620 4,021 3.8 72.3
St. Vincent and the 12,109,000 390 3,512 3.9 71.0
Suriname 45,338,000 163,300 2,760 1.4 69.0
Trinidad and Tobago 13,113,000 5,130 9,545 2.3 69.9
CARICOM 15,966,000 462,472 2,800 1.8
Non-OECS 15,368,000 459,560 c5,400
OECS (in bold) 598,000 2,912 5,300 1.8
Sources: Inter-American Development Bank. CARICOM Report No2, p. 81 and United Nations Economic
Commission on Latin America, Statistical Yearbook for Latin America and the Caribbean 2006.
a. 2004 dollars.
b. at birth, 2000-05.
c. Does not include Haiti or the Bahamas. Montserrat is a British territory. Associate members include the
British Virgin Islands, Turks and Caicos Islands, Anguilla, and the Cayman Islands.
CARICOM comprises a group of 12 island and 3 larger coastal nations in and around the
Caribbean Sea, bordered by the Atlantic Ocean to the east, South and Central America to the 3
south, the Gulf of Mexico to the west, and the United States to the north. Although CARICOM
3 CARICOM does not include a number of small former British territories, the former Dutch West Indies, the
members share many cultural and historical similarities, as seen in Table 1, their population, land
size, economies, per capita income, and social indicators (e.g., life expectancy) can vary
considerably, a reality that CARICOM responded to by designating some of its members as less
developed countries (LDCs), making them eligible for “special and differential treatment.”
Collectively, these former British, Dutch, and French territories constitute a richly diverse cultural
mosaic of European, African, and native influences that find themselves, paradoxically, “united 4
by the very sea that also divides them.” The tension between unity and division is a common
theme throughout Caribbean society, leading to what might be considered the “CARICOM
challenge:” how to integrate a diverse area in a manner that will meet individual country and
regional development goals, in a equitable and mutually supporting way, without negating
national identities and aspirations.
CARICOM was established on July 5, 1973 with the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas. It
was built on the trials and errors of previous unification efforts, beginning with the ambitious
West Indies Federation (1958-62), which sought political and economic unification. Despite
encouragement by Great Britain, it dissolved rapidly when Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago
withdrew in favor of national self-determination. In the midst of the failure to federate, the hope,
if not the necessity, of economic integration remained alive and took new form in 1965 with the
Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA). It marked the beginning of a free trade area and 5
was replaced five years later by a deeper commitment under CARICOM.
CARICOM began as two linked concepts: the Caribbean Community and the Common Market.
Although conceptually yoked, they were devised as separate legal and institutional entities that
provided a needed flexibility to accommodate differing national preferences for regional 6
integration. The Caribbean Community comprises multiple functional relationships and
institutions designed to integrate the region politically, economically, and legally. CARICOM was
not given supranational authority, however, dropping any pretense of another federalist
experiment, which allowed for relative ease of ratification. This arrangement, however, did not
lead to full regional integration. In the words of two Caribbean experts, “CARICOM is a structure
created by national governments to make national policies more effective by pursuing them 7
within a regional framework.”
Dominican Republic, or Cuba.
4 Attributed to Dr. Claire A. Neilson, President of the Institute of Caribbean Studies, Washington, DC.
5 Pollard, Duke, ed. The CARICOM System: Basic Instruments. Kingston: The Caribbean Law Publishing Company.
2003. pp. 5-8.
6 This arrangement was a necessary compromise. It accommodated Jamaica, which had little interest in joining a
multifaceted regional organization, but desired to be part of a common market that would promote export-led growth,
and the Bahamas, which preferred the opposite. The Bahamas is not a part of either the Common Market or CSME.
Ibid., pp. 5-8 and 184-185. Ironically, Jamaica would become the largest importer rather than exporter of regional
7 Payne, Anthony and Paul Sutton. Charting Caribbean Development. Gainesville: University of Florida Press. 2001. p.
The Common Market, on the other hand, focused on trade and investment integration and was a
stretch from the start. It proceeded from a free trade area to become a limited customs union,
complete with a porous (multiple exceptions) common external tariff (CET). Although the 8
“Common Market” did not evolve much beyond a “loose trading regime,” CARICOM did
succeed in bringing together a diverse group of states. The smallest islands subsequently formed
the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in 1981 to pursue an even deeper and, some
would argue, more successful integration pact in part to strengthen their position vis-à-vis the
larger CARICOM countries.
In 2001, CARICOM formally adopted the CSME concept in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas
(the Revised Treaty), effectively replacing the Common Market as the economic integration 9
standard. Together, CARICOM and the CSME share the attainment of three fundamental goals:
1) economic integration; 2) coordination of foreign policies; and 3) functional cooperation
(banding together to share resources in health, education, environment, science, technology,
transportation, and other disciplines). In each case, overcoming the disadvantages of small scale
has been a driving concern, whether seeking scale economies from an enlarged domestic market,
greater intraregional trade, shared costs in the provision of public sector goods, or integration of
policy responses to negotiate from a stronger unified position in the international arena (see
Small Countries: Are They Naturally Disadvantaged?, below). Some of these goals, however,
have found greater success than others, as CARICOM struggled to maintain its momentum.
8 Pollard, The CARICOM System, p. 887.
9 Pollard, The CARICOM System, p. 43.
Small Countries: Are They Naturally Disadvantaged?
Since first conceived, the rationale for CARICOM has been grounded on the assumption that because its members
have small, geographically isolated economies, they are at a disadvantage relative to larger economies, particularly in
an increasingly competitive global economy. The general argument posits that small markets limit opportunity for
economies of scale, competition, and diversification of production and trade. Governments also face higher per capita
costs in the provision of public goods and services. A CARICOM regional market is considered an important solution
to these problems because of its potential to enlarge the market, increase returns to scale, improve competition,
efficiency, and productivity, and ameliorate other problems through a common regulatory regime and transfer of
technology and knowledge. This thesis has also been the primary justification for providing special and differential
trade treatment to smaller states, whether applied to CARICOM relative to the world, or the smaller Caribbean
states (OECS) relative to the rest of CARICOM.
Research suggests, however, that the scale thesis can be overstated. First, if small states are at a natural disadvantage
relative to larger ones, it should be evident in their economic progress. A seminal article argues that if controlled for
location, level of economic development, and being an oil importer or exporter, the GDP growth experience is the
same for small states as large ones, and income levels are actually higher in small states. The primary reason,
supported in a growing body of research, is that small domestic economies that are open to the world can still
capture the benefits of a large market, which on balance improves productivity and closes the benefit gap with large a
states. Second, research specific to CARICOM comes to similar conclusions. Small, highly open CARICOM countries
are not poorer and have actually grown faster than the larger ones, supporting the idea that access to external b
markets can “attenuate” problems related to small domestic market size.(Note in Table 1 that if two outliers are
removed from the sample – Haiti with a large very poor population and the very rich Bahamas – the average per
capita income for the small OECS countries is nearly the same as that for the larger non-OECS countries.)
Third, CARICOM’s historical emphasis on intraregional trade integration has not been fully rewarded with the
anticipated gains in that trade. Together, the growing literature on small states and CARICOM’s experience suggest
that the “smallness” constraint can be exaggerated. From a policy perspective these insights might suggest that 1) the
benefits of integration continue to grow relative to the level of outward orientation (e.g., from regional to global); 2)
in general, policies good for larger states may also be so for smaller ones; and, 3) in particular, although most
observers agree that addressing distributional problems is an important consideration of any integration plan, the case
for prolonged special and differential treatment of small countries may be less than fully compelling.
a Easterly, William and Aart Kraay. “Small States, Small Problems? Income, Growth, and Volatility in Small States.”
World Development, Vol. 28, No. 11, 2000, pp. 2013-2027; and Alesina, Alberto and Enrico Spolaore. The Size of
Nations: Cambridge, MIT Press. 2003, pp. 81-83.
b Mesquita Moreira, Mauricio and Eduardo Mendoza. Regional Integration: What Is in it for CARICOM? Inter-American
Development Bank. Working Paper 29. April 2007. pp. 6-8 and 37. CARICOM itself acknowledges the vital
importance of integration with the world for the development of small economies. CARICOM. Caribbean Trade and
Investment Report 2005. Georgetown, Guyana. 2006. p. 3.
From the start, CARICOM faced a harsh external environment. The 1970s was a time of oil price
shocks, rising interest rates, and growing ideological extremism in the Caribbean that gave way to
slow growth, rising debt, social unrest, and political division in the 1980s, although to a lesser
extent than in Latin America. The excesses of this period discouraged deeper integration.
CARICOM remained tied to Europe through unilateral preferential trade arrangements and would
take up, with some controversy, the conditional U.S. offer of unilateral trade preferences defined
in the 1983 Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI). These preferences enhanced selected trade
opportunities, but were ultimately limited and proved to be poor foundations for diversifying 10
economic activity, as had trade dependence in the colonial period.
10 Payne and Sutton, op. cit., pp. 182-188. For a summary analysis of the effectiveness of CBI programs, see CRS
Report RL33951, U.S. Trade Policy and the Caribbean: From Trade Preferences to Free Trade Agreements, by J. F.
By the 1990s, the economies of Latin America and the Caribbean rebounded, but CARICOM
actually began to experience declining growth in output and productivity in many cases, with
collective GDP growth on average falling from 3.9% in the 1970s to 2.2% in the 1980s and 1.9% 11st
in the 1990s. In addition, by the turn of the 21 century, the World Trade Organization (WTO)
pressed the European Union (EU) to eliminate their unilateral preferences accorded CARICOM
exports (e.g., bananas and sugar), and the United States entered into a string of bilateral free trade
agreements (FTAs) with Western Hemisphere countries that began to erode the relative benefits
of the CBI preference programs. As the benefits of trade preferences continued their relative
decline, the natural structure of CARICOM’s trade patterns began to shift (see next section), as 12
did incentives to move beyond a customs union.
As an inward looking strategy typical of 1970s integration efforts, CARICOM was constrained as
a trade-related development strategy. Described by one Caribbean scholar as, “integrating,
expanding, and protecting the regional market for goods,” CARICOM did not enhance 13
intraregional trade to the degree expected. One study finds that from 1970 to 2003, although
intraregional trade grew faster than extraregional trade, as a percentage of total trade, it peaked in
1998 (details are discussed in next section). Intraregional trade is also dominated by Trinidad and
Tobago’s oil exports. Net of oil, which is not affected much by CARICOM’s preferences,
intraregional exports have never exceeded 6% of total CARICOM trade. The trends suggest that 14
CARICOM trade policies were limited in advancing intraregional integration.
Many have cited the lack of progress in implementing CARICOM policies as one factor that has 15
inhibited intraregional trade growth. Structural factors, particularly the similarity in economies
and high concentration of export products, however, also naturally limited the potential trade
effects of CARICOM’s regional market for goods, an effort recently characterized as “doomed to 16
be a low impact activity.” Future growth in trade, therefore, is expected to come from exchange
outside of CARICOM, which will require careful management of small-state volatility given
Hornbeck, pp. 15-17.
11 The World Bank. A Time to Choose: Caribbean Development in the 21st Century. Washington, DC. April 12, 2005.
12 Pollard, The CARICOM System, p. 887. Many of the smaller or poorer countries dependent on the colonial banana
and sugar trade, such as Dominica and Jamaica, are among the most affected. Parson, Elizabeth. Aid for Trade: A
Caribbean Perspective. CARICOM. Caribbean Regional Trade Negotiating Machinery. Christ Church, Barbados. May
2006. pp. 6-7, 14-16, 18-19, 27-28, and 32-33.
13 Bourne, Compton and Marlene Attzs. Institutions in Caribbean Economic Growth and Development. Social and
Economic Studies. September 2005. p. 35.
14 Jessen, Anneke and Christopher Vignoles. CARICOM Report No. 2. Inter-American Development Bank.
Washington, DC. August 2005. pp. 20-26. This analysis purposely excludes trade in oil because it skews the export
data upward. Also, oil trade generally is driven more by supply and demand factors than by trade pacts. See also, Wint,
Alvin G. “The Economic Impact of Caribbean Regional Integration: National Policy and Intra-Regional Performance
Differences,” in Hall, Kenneth and Denis Benn, eds. Caribbean Imperatives: Regional Governance and Integrated
Development. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2005. p. 136; and Pollard, The CARICOM System, p. 887.
15 Bourne and Attzs, Institutions in Caribbean Economic Growth and Development, p. 41; and the World Bank, A Time
to Choose, p. 89.
16 Wint, The Economic Impact of Caribbean Regional Integration, p. 138. This point was raised at least as early as the
1960s in the West Indies Federation. See also, IDB, CARICOM Report No. 2, p. 25; and the World Bank, A Time to
Choose, p. 89.
CARICOM’s highly concentrated export base, which increases vulnerability to external shocks 17
and erratic shifts in terms of trade.
It is also important to take note of the asymmetries in trade performance among countries, with
Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados having the largest growth in exports, and smaller countries,
many with diminished agricultural output and increased tourism, experiencing much smaller
merchandise export growth. Jamaica has experienced a marked decline in its exports, while
becoming the largest intra-CARICOM importer of goods, a trend largely attributed to its 18
macroeconomic instability that, in particular, has hurt the manufacturing sector.
Although CARICOM did not induce a large real growth in intraregional trade, it succeeded in
other ways. There have been significant gains to integration outside the trade area, including the 19
benefits of shared institutional responsibilities in the provision of public goods and services. In
addition, complementary structures of production have been important for efficiency gains, as
well as early efforts to integrate labor and capital markets, which promote efficient allocation of
factors of production, cost reduction, and improved competitiveness. These non-trade gains are at
the heart of the CSME, and provide a major rationale for moving beyond the limited customs 20
union approach that CARICOM has embraced for three decades.
The OECS also offers valuable lessons. Macroeconomic stability, for example, has contributed to
comparatively higher growth in output and income levels of these smaller states. The fiscal and
monetary discipline imposed by the monetary union is largely credited with maintaining
macroeconomic policy discipline and points to one advantage of deeper economic integration. By
contrast, the worse economic performance of the much larger states of Guyana and Jamaica is
associated with considerable political and economic volatility and weak macroeconomic 21
After years of preparatory work, on January 1, 2006, the CSME was formally established and
adopted by 12 member countries by year end: Belize, Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname,
Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia,
and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. The current schedule calls for a formal framework to be in 22
place by 2008, with the final completion date set for 2015. CARICOM originally proposed the
CSME in the 1989 Declaration of Grand Anse and legally and conceptually formalized its
existence in the 2001 Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas. At that time, Belize, Suriname, and Haiti
17 The World Bank, A Time to Choose, pp. 19-22.
18 Wint, The Economic Impact of Caribbean Regional Integration, pp. 137-139; and Bourne and Attzs, Institutions in
Caribbean Economic Growth and Development, p. 41.
19 The World Bank, A Time to Choose, pp. 30-32.
20 Wint, The Economic Impact of Caribbean Regional Integration, pp. 144-145; and IDB, CARICOM Report No. 2, pp.
37-40. This is not a new idea. For background, see Hall, Kenneth and Denis Benn, eds. Caribbean Imperatives:
Regional Governance and Integrated Development. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2005. p. xv.
21 Wint, The Economic Impact of Caribbean Regional Integration, pp. 140-141.
22 Hall and Benn, Caribbean Imperatives: Regional Governance and Integrated Development, p. xv.
joined CARICOM. The Revised Treaty also included provisions for new institutions, such as the 23
Caribbean Court of Justice.
In the drive to make the region internationally competitive, the CSME promises a vision of much
deeper economic integration than a single market. The transition to a “single economy” entails
significant new commitments to the consolidation of national policies in support of CARICOM’s
long-term goals that have so far proven difficult to achieve. Distributive issues continue to
rekindle debates over sovereignty issues, but without some convergence in economic
performance and policy coordination, the CSME will struggle to expand beyond the original 24
intraregional trade regime.
Specifically, the Revised Treaty proposes to transform CARICOM from a “limited trading
regime” into a “common economic space.” The plan calls for a fully market-oriented approach to
the regional economy, deeper macroeconomic policy coordination, increased harmonization of
functional areas, the free movement of goods, services, investment, and labor, and eventually a
currency union. Parts of the scheme are intended to unfold over an extended period of time. The
goal remains to adopt a model of economic “competitiveness,” directed in particular at
overcoming the disadvantages of small firms working in economies that face economic 25
restructuring in the face of disappearing trade preferences.
The goals of the CSME also highlight lingering challenges to deeper integration. These include a
high reliance on tariff revenue, hindering full commitment to the CET; a strong resistence to
relinquishing national decision-making authority to a regional institution; diverse priorities
among countries with export sectors heavily concentrated in either tourism, agriculture, or
energy; incongruent macroeconomic policies; and divergent performance in trade and economic
growth. Within CARICOM itself, developing the institutional, financial, and technical capacity to 26
manage multiple needs in domestic and international contexts remains an ongoing challenge. 27
Capital markets are more closely integrated, but intra-CARICOM investment remains small.
Labor mobility has increased, but remains geographically constrained for all but a limited number
of certified skilled workers.
In a comprehensive analysis of the Caribbean’s development prospects, the World Bank identifies
five important issues for the CSME: 1) increase productivity; 2) expand trade openness; 3)
23 Ibid., pp. 6, 22-25, and 460-463. CARICOM policy decisions are rendered by national leaders as members of the
Conference of Heads of Government and administered through the Community Council of Ministers. Remaining
functions were reorganized into four councils and three committees that report to the Community Council. The
CARICOM Secretariat is headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana. To help move CARICOM beyond the limited
achievements of the earlier Common Market, it redefined its decision-making protocols. The strict unanimity rule of
the original treaty was retained for the Conference of Heads of Government, but replaced with majority rule for the
24 Wint, The Economic Impact of Caribbean Regional Integration, p. 145.
25 Bourne and Attzs, Institutions in Caribbean Economic Growth and Development, pp. 6-7. Unlike the firm, the idea
of a nation’s competitiveness is more difficult to define and is ultimately determined by overall economic productivity.
Key roles for government involve the coordinated provision of public goods (infrastructure) and creating an
standardized regulatory environment supportive of innovation. The global challenges to CARICOM small firm
competitiveness are analyzed in Bernal, Richard. “Nano-Firms, Regional Integration, and International
Competitiveness: The Experience and Dilemma of the CSME.” In Benn, Denis and Kenneth Hall, eds. Production
Integration in CARICOM: From Theory to Action. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers, 2006.
26 Ibid., p. 52.
27 Bernal, Nano-Firms, Regional Integration, and International Competitiveness, p. 100.
improve public investment in infrastructure and education; 4) reduce size of government, and; 5)
maintain macroeconomic stability. The anticipated marginal trade benefits may come from
opening the economies further to the global marketplace. Non-trade gains (lower costs/increased
efficiency) may accrue to the public sector to the extent that the CSME can eliminate 28
redundancies and even further enhance functional cooperation.
The CARICOM countries inherited narrow production structures from their colonial economic
heritage. As captive producers and consumers for the European states, Caribbean economies were
developed to “complement” their counterparts across the Atlantic Ocean. Spawned by foreign
investment and sustained by protected trade, plantation economies arose based largely on sugar
and banana production. Minerals extraction and tourism came along much later. The colonies
were equally dependent on European imports for manufactured goods and food, a relationship
that endured for centuries and carried forward into the post-independence period. As a result, the
Caribbean trade regime remained relatively undiversified, sheltered from competition, and poorly
linked to domestic food and manufacturing production that could have promoted broader-based 29
The Caribbean economies, therefore, were poorly positioned to make the leap to global
competition. As trade preferences eroded, the Caribbean’s high production costs and tariff rates
exposed its lack of competitiveness. The encroaching global economy, however, began to force
change on CARICOM’s trade and investment relationships, irrespective of the region’s capacity
or willingness to adapt. The most significant adjustment to the trade regime has been the
declining importance of trade preferences with the EU and the United States. Unilateral
preferences with the EU are being replaced by a reciprocal Economic Partnership Agreement
(EPA), while the relative benefit of unilateral trade preferences with the United States continues
to erode as multilateral liberalization and U.S. reciprocal trade agreements, beginning with the
North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) in 1994, expand. At the same time,
intraregional CARICOM trade shows little promise for growth and Latin America and Asia are
emerging as increasingly important trade partners in the future.
The implications of these trends for CARICOM are still unfolding, but at the least suggest that for
many countries, particularly the smaller ones, manufacturing and agricultural exports may
continue to decline relative to services trade (tourism, financial, education). These alternatives to
traditional production and trade patterns, however, are not developing fast enough to mitigate
fully income, employment, and outward migration problems. Economic transition will be the
greatest challenge for the CSME, and perhaps defines its reason for being. In this context,
changing economic relations with CARICOM’s major partners are explored after a short review
of its current trade and investment profile.
28 The World Bank, A Time to Choose, pp. 26-27.
29 Griffith, Winston H. “A Tale of Four CARICOM Countries.” Journal of Economic Issues. Vol. XXXVI, No. 1.
March 2002. p. 81.
CARICOM trade policy is formulated by the Heads of State, but coordinated and implemented
through the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Mechanism (RNM), headquartered in Kingston,
Jamaica with a second trade office in Bridgetown, Barbados. The RNM was created on April 1,
1997 in response to increasing need for a system to coordinate regional trade policy. Tasked to
address all external trade matters of CARICOM, it has organized trade negotiations into three
“theatres” focused on: the European Union (EPA negotiations); the United States (a bilateral
accord or regional FTAA); and multilateral negotiations (the Doha Round). There are also a 30
number of limited bilateral trade initiatives with Central America and other countries.
As with other aspects of CARICOM, the RNM faces a number of institutional challenges.
Developing a coordinated trade policy among 15 countries requires compromise, a tall order
given the sometimes diverse priorities among those countries with different economic structures,
and a historical reluctance to relinquish sovereign control over important policy decisions. Most
members of CARICOM, for example, are also members of the WTO and may pursue individual
policies. The RNM is also generally thought to be understaffed and underfinanced for the
responsibilities it maintains, but nonetheless offers a trade expertise unavailable in some 31
CARICOM countries. Lack of trade specialization can also deter consensus building.
Table 2. CARICOM Intraregional and Extraregional Trade
(US$ billions and percent)
96 97 98 99 00 01 02 03 04
Total Exports 4.6 5.2 4.8 5.7 6.9 6.7 5.5 7.6 9.3
%Intraregional 18.9 18.1 21.5 19.3 19.0 20.0 18.2 17.8 13.4
%Extraregional 81.1 18.1 78.5 80.7 81.0 80.0 81.8 82.2 86.6
Total Imports 7.6 9.0 8.9 9.5 10.2 10.1 9.7 10.9 12.3
%Intraregional 10.3 9.7 10.2 11.6 11.5 11.2 10.3 12.2 11.8
%Extraregional 89.7 90.3 89.8 88.4 88.5 88.8 89.7 87.8 88.2
Source: CARICOM, Caribbean Trade and Investment Report 2005, pp. 12 and 14.
CARICOM trade patterns are evolving, but one trend remains entrenched: despite linear growth
in total trade, both intraregional exports and imports have either stagnated or declined as a
percentage of total trade, as may be seen in Table 2. Intraregional exports (including oil) peaked
at 21.5% of total exports in 1998, only to decline thereafter, accounting for less than 15% of total
exports in recent years. Intraregional imports have averaged between 10% and 12% of total
imports, showing little change over the past decade and revealing a high dependency on foreign
markets for industrial inputs, consumer goods, and food for both local and tourist consumption.
The strong dependence on external markets reinforces the rationale for completing the CSME.
30 IDB, CARICOM Report No. 2, pp. 50-51; and RNM materials and interviews.
31 Ibid., pp. 51-52.
CARICOM’s three major trade partners, as shown in Figure 2, are the United States, Latin
America and the Caribbean (LAC), and the European Union. The United States ranks first and
growth of CARICOM exports has exceeded those of the EU. Latin America is also growing as a
major trade partner. Two smaller partners, Canada and Asia, have opposite trends, with export
growth to Canada expanding slowly, compared to recent rapid growth to Asia, albeit from a very 32
small base. Aggregate export data, however, can be misleading, skewed by the large portion of
petroleum-related products from Trinidad and Tobago. If energy exports are subtracted, trends
adjust downward showing much smaller growth in extraregional exports, particularly to the
United States (see section on U.S. trade below.)
CARICOM imports have slightly different trends. Although the largest portion of imports
originate from the United States, recently they have grown at a below-average rate compared with
the average for all countries. Imports from the EU and LAC have seen a marked above-average
growth, particularly over the past five years. Imports from Canada are also expanding at a below-
average rate, while Asian imports are growing well above average, all reflecting the changing 33
global trade landscape. Unlike Trinidad and Tobago, the rest of CARICOM must import energy:
the purchase of oil on deferred payment terms.
Figure 2. CARICOM Direction of Merchandise Trade, 2004
Source: Estimates based on IDB and CARICOM Secretariat data.
32 Ibid., p. 103.
33 Ibid., p. 103.
34 For more on Venezuela’s “oil diplomacy,” see CRS Report RL33693, Latin America: Energy Supply, Political
Developments, and U.S. Policy Approaches, by Mark P. Sullivan, Clare Ribando Seelke, and Rebecca G. Rush.
“Economic Commission on Latin America and the Caribbean.” Latin American and the Caribbean in the World
Economy 2006. Santiago, August 2007. p. 145.
Trends in CARICOM’s trade in goods, services, and foreign direct investment are shown in
Figure 3. On the trade side, CARICOM runs a trade deficit (exports minus imports) with the
world. The magnitude of this deficit is obscured by the upswing in exports since 2002. In fact,
recent export growth is the result of energy-related products from Trinidad and Tobago. Services
exports have also grown because of tourist related activities, some two-thirds of which is 35
accounted for by U.S. spending.
The stock of foreign direct investment (FDI) has been historically important since colonial times
and remains a driving force in the CARICOM economies. The region’s dependence on foreign
capital remains high and has grown steadily over the past decade, as seen in Figure 3. Between
Jamaica (mining, tourism, and agriculture); and Trinidad and Tobago (mineral fuels and 36
manufacturing). The top three investors are the United States, Europe, and Canada.
Figure 3. CARICOM Trade and Investment Trends, 1994-2004
Source: IDB, Regional Strategy for Support to the Carribean Community 2007-2010, Tables 7, 8, 26, and 28.
35 Inter-American Development Bank. IDB Regional Strategy for Support to the Caribbean Community, 2007-2010.
Washington, DC. December 2006. p. 12.
36 Ibid., and CARICOM Secretariat. Caribbean Trade and Investment Report 2005. Kingston: Ian Randle Publishers.
2006. pp. 134-140.
CARICOM’s most immediate trade policy challenge is to implement the EPA concluded with the 37
EU on December 16, 2007. Europe’s former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean, and the Pacific
(the ACP countries) are all in the process of replacing unilateral preferential trade arrangements
dating to the 1975 Lomé Convention, with WTO-compatible reciprocal trade agreements. The
Lomé Convention, which defined these unilateral arrangements between Europe and its former
colonies, was renewed three times (Lome I-IV) between 1975 and 2000. It provided duty-free
preferences, import licensing, quotas and set prices for sugar, bananas, and rum that supported a
vibrant trade for Caribbean industries that otherwise would have struggled to be internationally 38
The Lomé Convention, however, required waivers to the Article I nondiscrimination clause of the
General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT), an issue that became increasingly
confrontational. For example, by the 1990s, the United States and banana-producing Latin
American countries had decided to challenge the EU banana protocol in the GATT and its
successor organization, the WTO. The WTO eventually ruled against the EU in 1997, and three 39
years later a new banana agreement was signed by all parties.
The nondiscrimination doctrine was further reinforced with creation of the WTO in 1995,
increasing pressure on the EU and CARICOM to replace the unilateral trade preferences in Lomé
IV. In response, the two parties formalized a compromise in the Cotonou Agreement of 2000. It is
a comprehensive trade and development arrangement designed to be in place for 20 years. To
meet WTO demands to transition toward nondiscriminatory trade, however, the Cotonou
Agreement extended trade preferences only until January 1, 2008, at which point it was to be
replaced with a WTO-compatible arrangement – the EPA.
The importance of the EPA for the Caribbean countries cannot be overstated. The protected
banana, sugar, and rum trade has been the economic lifeblood for many of them. For example, the
price paid for sugar in the EU has often been triple the world market price. Given the Caribbean’s
relatively high production costs, the treatment of these key traded goods in the EPA will likely
determine the extent to which they will remain significant contributors to the CARICOM 40
To conform to WTO standards, the EPA had to replace discriminatory trade rules under the
Cotonou Agreement with an agreement that would qualify as a reciprocal regional trade area
under Article XXIV of the GATT (as U.S. free trade agreements do). Among the strict WTO
requirements, the agreement forbids increasing overall protection and requires liberalization of
37 CARICOM and the Dominican Republic have been negotiating this agreement together in the Caribbean Forum
group, known as the CARIFORUM.
38 Payne and Sutton, Charting Caribbean Development, pp. 246-248 and CARICOM. “Caribbean Regional Negotiating
Machinery.” RNM Update. April 20, 2007.
39 The first two attempts to modify the banana regime in 1999 and 2000 were also denied. See CRS Report RS20130,
The U.S.-European Union Banana Dispute, by Charles E. Hanrahan, Charting Caribbean Development, p. 244. In a
recent turnaround, however, Ecuador won a December 2006 compliance review panel decision that found the current
tariff-based system inconsistent with WTO rules. The renewed dispute is currently unresolved. See Washington Trade
Daily, December 11, 2007.
40 CARICOM, Special RNM Update: Getting to Know the EPA. December 5, 2007; and Inter Press News Service,
October 2, 2007.
“substantially all trade.” The EPA calls for all CARICOM products to enter the EU duty-and
quota-free as of January 1, 2008, with the exception of sugar and rice, which will face tariffs until 41
To meet WTO guidelines, the EPA requires that CARICOM reciprocate with full trade
liberalization. The EU, however, conceded to a “development component” in the EPA, designed
to help ease CARICOM’s adjustment. CARICOM has been given a grace period of up to 25 years
for a select group of “sensitive” products. CARICOM tariffs on EU exports of these goods will be
phased out over an extended period of time. In addition, the EU will also provide aid for business
and export capacity development. The EPA must be applied provisionally by April 15, 2008 and
each country’s legislature is required to ratify the agreement. The ratification process could prove
controversial given some industries, such as banana production, have expressed dissatisfaction 42
with the accord.
CARICOM is a small trade partner of the United States. In 2006, it was the 23rd largest export th
market for U.S. goods and ranked 30 in U.S. imports. Major U.S. exports include mineral fuels,
manufactured goods, and foods. U.S. export trends have been weak; growth has lagged behind
average growth of U.S. exports to the world. As shown in Figure 4, over the past decade, U.S.
exports have largely stagnated until 2004, when they began to grow more sharply. The aggregate
figures, however, disguise the skewed nature of U.S.-CARICOM trade. The Bahamas, Jamaica,
and Trinidad and Tobago absorb 70% of U.S. exports to the region.
41 Caribbean Regional Negotiating Mechanism. RNM Update. December 19, 2007.
42 CMC. Caribbean Inks Controversial EPA Accord with Europe. December 23, 2007.
Figure 4. U.S.-CARICOM Merchandise Trade, 2000-2006
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce as presented in the World Trade Atlas.
Figure 4 also points to uneven growth in U.S. imports from CARICOM since 1997. As with the
export data, the sudden rise in U.S. imports after 2002 also reflects highly concentrated trade
patterns, in this case the price and volume effects of energy-related goods (petroleum, oil, natural
gas products from Trinidad and Tobago). The significance of this effect may be seen by
comparing growth in total U.S. imports with that of non-energy imports in Figure 4. The
lackluster growth of non-energy goods points of the dominance of energy goods in the aggregate
U.S. import line and weak performance of most other products. U.S. energy imports also explain
much of the steady decline in the U.S. trade balance with CARICOM.
These trends have important implications for U.S.-CARICOM trade. First, 14 of 15 countries
account for only 20% of U.S. merchandise imports from CARICOM, despite targeted U.S. tariff
preferences provided to the region (discussed below). Second, U.S. merchandise trade is not
likely to be a significant growth area for most of the CARICOM countries. This point reflects not
only the stagnant growth in non-energy U.S. imports, but changes CARICOM countries are
undergoing, including a shift toward services-based economies, the major sector for U.S. 43
investment. Third, the importance of the U.S. economy as a trade partner will likely hinge, in
part, on how U.S. trade policy responds to changes in CARICOM countries, particularly given
diminishing role of the U.S. preferences.
43 The Bureau of Economic Affairs (BEA) at the U.S. Department of Commerce collects U.S. services trade data. BEA
staff have indicated that Caribbean data have not been disaggregated in a way that would allow for isolating trends for
individual CARICOM countries.
Table 3. U.S. Foreign Direct Investment in CARICOM
Member Country 2002 2003 2004 2005 2006
Antigua and Barbuda 93 30 26 22 17
Bahamas 7,645 8,643 11,985 15,659 26,130
Barbados 1,817 984 3,146 3,865 4,756
Belize 52 54 96 102 95
Dominica 45 a a 37 25
Grenada 7 7 7 7 7
Guyana 157 165 169 183 211
Haiti 63 74 84 a 154
Jamaica 3,097 3,406 3,586 1,006 884
Montserrat b b b b b
St. Kitts and Nevis -1 -1 -1 2 a
St. Lucia 17 a a a 117
St. Vincent and the Grenadines 6 6 6 6 a
Suriname 97 176 a a a
Trinidad and Tobago 2,326 2,392 2,450 2,883 3,848
CARICOM 15,421 15,936 21,554 23,772 36,244
Source: U.S. Department of Commerce. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA). Stock of direct investment on a
historical cost basis.
a. Information has been suppressed by BEA to avoid disclosure of individual company data.
b. Individual country data unavailable, but assumed to be very small.
Trends in U.S. foreign investment are actually more robust than for trade. The stock of U.S.
foreign direct investment in CARICOM has more than doubled over the past five years, and the
U.S. remains one of the largest investors in the region (see Table 3 for data). Like trade,
investment patterns are far from uniform, with 96% of U.S. stock of FDI concentrated in the
Bahamas, Barbados, and Trinidad and Tobago. The rest of CARICOM attracts little investment
and Jamaica appears to have experienced a significant loss in U.S. investment since 2004.
Interestingly, the United States has bilateral investment treaties only with Grenada, Haiti, and
Trade policy discussions between the United States and CARICOM are conducted through a
Trade and Investment Council (TIC). The TIC is a formal arrangement, but less structured than a
Trade and Investment Framework (TIFA) that usually implies agreeing to regularly scheduled
meetings and deadlines. The United States has suggested moving from a TIC to a TIFA as a way
to enhance and re-emphasize the priority of U.S.-CARICOM trade talks and relations. 44
CARICOM has yet to respond to this proposition.
44 Discussion with USTR staff.
The key U.S. policy issue for U.S.-CARICOM trade relations is deciding whether to continue
with unilateral trade preferences or begin negotiations with CARICOM for a reciprocal free trade
agreement. In general, CARICOM has supported U.S. trade initiatives, including designs for a 45
regional Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA). Support for a bilateral agreement, however,
has been less enthusiastic. The United States and CARICOM are discussing trade policy options
in the Trade and Investment Council (TIC).
Currently, the trade relationship is covered by two U.S. unilateral preference programs: the
original CBI program as defined in the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) of
1983, and the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA) of 2000. Although the original
CBERA program is in place permanently, the preferences apply only to a small portion of
CARICOM goods. The CBTPA covers more Caribbean products, but only seven countries qualify
and the preferences are set to expire at the close of FY2008. The CBTPA is also being challenged
in the WTO by Paraguay, which would like to obtain similar preferences. Both U.S. and
CARICOM policymakers have at least three (not necessarily mutually exclusive) options: renew
and expand the unilateral preferences; initiate discussion for a reciprocal FTA; or let the CBTPA 46
U.S. trade policy in the Western Hemisphere has emphasized replacing unilateral preferences
with reciprocal FTAs. One benefit of a permanent FTA with the United States is the predictability
of trade rules. The end to periodic congressional reauthorization of unilateral programs eliminates
a major uncertainty for foreign investors. Second, the trade benefits tend to apply to a broader
range of goods under FTAs than under unilateral preference arrangements. Third, for many
countries, guaranteed U.S. market access is another enticement, although one with less appeal for
the smaller Caribbean countries because they export so little to the United States.
The CARICOM countries disagree over the desirability of the FTA option. The larger countries
with significant merchandise exports tend to support the idea, whereas the smaller service-based
economies remain highly skeptical. Another policy question concerns the issue of special and
differential treatment. CARICOM strongly advocates that some type of development component
be included in an FTA with the United States, including lengthy tariff phase-out periods for
sensitive products and financial assistance for trade adjustment and export capacity building.
The major costs to CARICOM of a reciprocal FTA involve the risk of opening the economy to
greater competition from U.S. firms and potentially failing to meet the obligations of a complex
and comprehensive agreement. In particular, CARICOM countries worry about the cost and their
ability to comply with sanitary standards, intellectual property rights, government procurement,
and investment provisions. Many CARICOM countries do not consider the overall tradeoff to be
to their advantage at this point, and prefer to initiate discussion over extending and expanding
unilateral preferences. Others note that the transition to a fully open economy is a core element of
the CSME development strategy and that a bilateral FTA may be one way to proceed. Failing to
gain a consensus, CARICOM has deferred making a decision on a U.S. FTA, focusing its
45 For more on the FTAA, see CRS Report RS20864, A Free Trade Area of the Americas: Major Policy Issues and
Status of Negotiations, by J. F. Hornbeck.
46 For details on the effects of and policy options for the preference programs, see CRS Report RL33951, U.S. Trade
Policy and the Caribbean: From Trade Preferences to Free Trade Agreements, pp. 17-18.
attention and resources on completing the EPA with the EU, negotiating the Doha Round in the
WTO, and lobbying for an extension of trade preferences with the United States.
A second major issue has been the trade dispute between the United States and Antigua and
Barbuda over cross-border Internet gambling services. In 2003, Antigua and Barbuda requested
consultations with the United States under the WTO dispute settlement system over U.S. federal
and state laws that, it argued, discriminated against foreign cross-border gambling provided
through Internet services. It considered these laws to be in violation of U.S. commitments under
the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS). A protracted dispute settlement
process ensued in which the WTO ruled against U.S. arguments that it had made no specific
obligations to gambling in its GATS commitment. The United States eventually acquiesced to
comply with an April 2005 appellate body ruling, but in subsequently failing to do so, found itself 47
subject to an adverse WTO compliance review panel ruling in March 2007.
On May 4, 2007, the USTR announced that rather than comply with the WTO ruling, the United
States would instead modify its services commitments to exclude Internet gambling, relying on a
provision in GATS Article XXI that is rarely invoked. The United States maintained that it had
never intended to include Internet gambling as part of its GATS commitments. Although
technically permitted to make these modifications, under GATS the United States is compelled to
compensate affected WTO members. It has or is negotiating settlements with the EU, Japan, 48
Canada, India, Costa Rica, and Macao.
In addition, on June 21, 2007, Antigua and Barbuda requested authorization from the WTO
dispute settlement body to suspend the application to the United States of concessions and
obligations made under GATS and the WTO Agreement on Trade-Related Aspects of Intellectual
Property Rights (TRIPS) equal to an annual value of $3.4 billion. The United States countered
that an annual amount of suspended obligations (trade sanctions) of $500,000 was a more
equitable figure, and that it was inappropriate to allow for cross-retaliation through TRIPS
obligations. On December 21, 2007, the WTO ruled that Antigua and Barbuda was entitled to
impose $21 million annually in trade sanctions against the United States. It also found that
because Antigua and Barbuda’s economy is so small and dependent on U.S. services imports,
imposing services trade sanctions was not a feasible alternative. Hence the WTO also allowed for
Antigua and Barbuda to be compensated by suspending intellectual property rights 49
The final award ruling is controversial for many reasons. First, the dispute settlement body
expressed a distinct lack of confidence in the methodology used to determine the level of
potential financial loss (nullification or impairment of benefits) and thereby the amount of
47 For legal details, see CRS Report RL32014, WTO Dispute Settlement: Status of U.S. Compliance in Pending Cases,
by Jeanne J. Grimmett.
48 “U.S. Extends WTO Talks in Compensating EU, Others for Internet Gambling Exclusion.” International Trade
Reporter. October 25, 2007; and Pruzin, Daniel. Antigua Allowed to Impose $21 Million Annually as Sanctions on U.S.
in Gambling Dispute. International Trade Daily. December 24, 2007.
49 Ibid., and World Trade Organization. United States – Measures Affecting the Cross-Border Supply of Gambling and
Betting Services: Recourse to Arbitration by the United States under Article 22.6 of the DSU. December 21, 2007. pp.
1-3, 67, and 74-75.
compensation. Second, Antigua and Barbuda argued that the dollar figure was extremely low,
letting the United States off lightly and raising broader questions about smaller countries’ ability
to obtain equal recourse as larger ones under the WTO. Third, the United States argued that
suspending TRIPS obligations is a poor cross-retaliation precedent, particularly given WTO
efforts to reinforce intellectual property rights in multilateral agreements. Because both parties
view suspending TRIPS obligations as sub-optimal, they continue to negotiate to find a bilateral 50
solution that likely will effectively render the WTO ruling moot.
The CARICOM countries view the WTO as a critical mechanism for ensuring fairness in a global
rules-based trading system that applies to members of unequal economic and political power. All
but the Bahamas and Montserrat are members of the WTO, but few CARICOM countries are in a
position to finance a permanent office in Geneva. Although the countries vote individually, the
collective trade expertise is housed in the RNM, which for practical purposes, is the main
negotiating body for CARICOM.
CARICOM’s perspectives are highly linked to the positions of developing country groups
operating within the WTO framework. These involve finding a favorable balance with respect to
agricultural and non-agricultural market access, providing flexibility for small countries on
services commitments, and most importantly, ensuring there is adequate special and differential
treatment for developing countries in terms of scope, depth, and timing of commitments.
CARICOM also has very specific preferences within the developing country groups based on
perceptions that their “small vulnerable” economies warrant different treatment than that afforded
larger developing countries. In particular, CARICOM argues that its members face two unique
hurdles in the global trading system: far more difficulty in adjusting to trade liberalization and a
less than equal voice in the negotiating process. Brazil and India, for example, have emerged as
leading voices in the Doha Round, yet because of huge differences in market size and diversity
with smaller developing countries, their priorities can often diverge from those of CARICOM and
others. Whereas the EU has incorporated a development component in the EPA, the WTO has not
yet acquiesced to a similar request.
CARICOM is also concerned with how the Doha Round will treat their highly concentrated
export regime (bananas, sugar, oil), particularly with respect to provisions in the new EPA. They
are ultimately seeking differentiated provisions that will lengthen their adjustment time to
reducing trade barriers, while ensuring their key exports are given the greatest flexibility in
CARICOM has initiated bilateral trade agreements or negotiations with Canada, Costa Rica,
Central America, the Dominican Republic, Colombia, Venezuela, and Cuba. All are limited in
scope and many are still in preliminary stages of negotiation. None are comprehensive in the
sense of the bilateral FTAs undertaken by the United States, again reflecting CARICOM’s
50 Ibid., and Pruzin, Daniel. Antigua Allowed to Impose $21 Million Annually as Sanctions on U.S. in Gambling
Dispute. International Trade Daily. December 24, 2007.
concerns over its members’ abilities to meet obligations of highly complex comprehensive 51
CARICOM-Canada trade relations are currently covered by the CARICOM-Canada Trade and
Economic Co-operation Agreement, a unilateral preferential trade arrangement, and bilateral
investment treaties with Barbados and Trinidad and Tobago. Both Canada and CARICOM have
expressed interest in expanding to a reciprocal trade agreement. CARICOM has received a
mandate from the Heads of State to commence negotiations, but a similar commitment from
Canada has yet to be made.
Costa Rica and CARICOM signed a limited product reciprocal trade agreement in March 2003.
The framework entails specific lists of products for which each country is willing to reduce tariffs
and other barriers to trade. It provides a mechanism to increase market access on an incremental
basis, but does not move significantly beyond the limited products list approach. In August 2007,
members of the Central American Common market (CACM) launched negotiations with
CARICOM for an accession agreement to the CARICOM-Costa Rica FTA.
The Dominican Republic signed a limited market access agreement with CARICOM in
December 2001. Efforts have been made to expand the agreement, but fundamental differences
have kept negotiators from reaching an understanding over deeper commitments. A similar
agreement was signed with Colombia in July 1994 that has allowed for incremental growth in
market access commitments on a product-by-product basis. CARICOM currently has a non-
reciprocal trade and investment agreement with Venezuela, in place since 1992. In July 2000,
CARICOM signed a Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement with Cuba. It too is in the
mold of a limited market access agreement based on selective product lists. It has allowed for
some incremental expansion of products to be given reduced tariffs, but has not expanded to a
broad-based agreement of any kind.
CARICOM views its long-range development strategy as critical for addressing unemployment,
poverty, out-migration, and other economic problems that affect political and social stability. The
CSME, as a framework for deepening integration both within the region and with the world at
large, sits at the center of this strategy. Intraregional integration is incomplete, but plans call for
deepening the effort and progress has been made in achieving greater functional cooperation of
the public sector. The trade and investment rules need significant tightening, new public revenue
sources to replace lost tariff revenue must be identified, and there is much to be done before a
grand scheme of full factor mobility and macroeconomic policy coordination could be realized.
Managing the process of “insertion” into the global economy is the overriding task. As much as
Caribbean leaders have identified the need for CARICOM to increase productivity by opening the
economies to global competition, the region has hesitated to adopt fast-paced change in its trade
regime. CARICOM insists on a measured, if not protracted transition to full trade liberalization
whether addressing the Doha Round, EPA, or bilateral talks with the United States. Special and
differential treatment is considered necessary in all cases.
51 Information reflects updates on the RNM trade website, see http://www.crnm.org.
The region’s historically privileged trade relationships with Europe and the United States,
however, have not helped CARICOM prepare for trade liberalization with the world.
CARICOM’s insistence on a lengthy transition to full trade liberalization could even delay policy
reforms it considers central to the success of the CSME. Contradictions such as these are inherent
in a diverse region attempting to unify economic policies of 15 countries, and may naturally
resolve slowly. This prospect points to the need for decisive collective action to move ahead
meaningfully with the CSME.
Circumstances may already be forcing the region to action. Choices will have to be made in
which a lack of decisiveness can be costly. Adjustment to the recently negotiated EPA with the
EU will be a challenge and invite procrastination. Similarly, U.S.-CARICOM trade relations may st
be redefined for the 21 century by a lack of clear action on trade policy if nothing is done to
renew or adjust to the expiring CBTPA preferences.
These raise potentially important questions for the United States as well, both within and beyond
trade and investment policy. The United States has long turned to trade policy as a foundation for
supporting economic development and political stability in the region. The rationale is predicated
on the belief that growth and stability breed conditions conducive for deeper cooperation in such
important policy areas as countering illicit drug trafficking, immigration, and terrorist activity.
Congress has had, and may continue to have, a deep and broad policy agenda in mind as it
contemplates the next step in formulating U.S. trade policy toward CARICOM.
J. F. Hornbeck
Specialist in International Trade and Finance