Since the “Brexit” referendum, there have been mutterings in social media about whether Jamaica should leave the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) – especially in light of the recent concerns over the treatment of Jamaican travelers at some Caribbean airports. How about a “CARICOMexit,” they ask? Well, be that as it may, plans for a Commission to review Jamaica’s membership in the regional body have been well under way for some time. The Commission met for the first time today.
Local media representatives were invited to attend the “first section” of the meeting – which consisted of general remarks by the Chairman, and lasted for precisely ten minutes. We were granted time for “one or two” questions, and then we were out. Three or four journalists hung around afterwards, hoping for interviews. I think one or two were eventually granted.
The agenda was not made available to the press today; nor was it referred to in the Chairman’s remarks, which as I said were very general. Mr. Golding said the Commission will look at CARICOM’s successes and failures; its architecture and systems; and that it would not take any “predetermined position.” He emphasized the importance of looking at Jamaica’s approach to CARICOM “and our own policies and actions.” He noted that it is important to know what “ordinary Jamaican citizens” (his words) feel, and that the Commission will go out and consult with them. He also noted that the Commission will consult with those who have experience working within the CARICOM system, to get their perspectives; and to see how Jamaica can benefit from further research. He assured the public of the Commission’s “diligence and purposefulness, and that Jamaica’s interests will be paramount” in their consultations.
The CARICOM Review Commission, put together to review Jamaica’s relations within the CARICOM (Caribbean Community) and ACP CARIFORUM framework, is chaired by former Prime Minister Bruce Golding. The 18-member Commission is as follows (a “formidable team” as Mr. Golding described it):
Professor Eleanor Brown, Associate Professor of Law, George Washington University, Washington, DC
Mr. Donnie Bunting, Farmer, Longville Park Farm
Ms. Michelle Chong, President, Jamaica Exporters Association
Ambassador Dr. Nigel Clarke, Deputy Chairman/Chief Financial Officer, Musson Group of Companies
Mr. Dennis Cohen, Deputy Managing Director, National Commercial Bank
Mr. Michael Diamond, Second Vice President, National Consumer League
Mr. John Jackson, Chartered Accountant/Financial Analyst
Mr. Hugh Johnson, President, Small Business Association of Jamaica
Dr. Damien King, Co-Executive Director, Caribbean Policy Research Institute (CaPRI), University of the West Indies, Mona
Mr. Christopher Levy, President & CEO, The Jamaica Broilers Group
Mr. William Mahfood, President, Private Sector Organization of Jamaica
Mr. Warren McDonald, President, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce
Ambassador Lorne McDonnough, Former Ambassador to Trinidad & Tobago (and CARICOM)
Mr. Kevin O’Brien Chang, Businessman/Public Commentator
Mr. Danny Roberts, Director, Hugh Lawson Shearer Trade Union Education Institute, University of the West Indies, Mona
Mr. Metry Seaga, President, Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association
Ms. Maxine Henry Wilson, Commissioner, Jamaica Tertiary Education Commission
EX-OFFICIO AND SUPPORT STAFF:
Foreign Service Office
Ministry of Finance and Public Service
Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade
Ministry of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries
Formidable indeed, and the names listed above are all eminent and worthy Jamaicans. But where is the diversity? More than half of the eighteen members are business/private sector representatives. Three of the eighteen members are women. There are no representatives of civil society (including human rights) on the Commission – except perhaps the National Consumer League, which is not very active; no youth representatives – by the way, 63 per cent of CARICOM’s population is under thirty years old; and no representatives of groups such as the disabled, women, seniors etc. Couldn’t these “ordinary Jamaican citizens” have a seat at the table? Are they not affected by CARICOM’s policies and by Jamaica’s position in the group? Does the Commission aim to focus on business and trade only, with a bit of foreign policy thrown in? These are the questions I came away with.
When I asked about the lack of civil society representation (one of the two questions allowed), Mr. Golding told me that the Prime Minister appointed the Commission; and that anyway, it is difficult to identify a civil society representative. I could have given him several names off the top of my head.
The Commission’s Terms of Reference are as follows:
- Evaluate the effects that Jamaica’s participation in CARICOM has had on its economic growth and development, with particular reference to trade in goods and services, investment, international competitiveness and employment;
- Analyze CARICOM’s performance against the goals and objectives enunciated in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas and to identify the causes of the shortcomings;
- Review the CARICOM arrangement in light of the wider Caribbean, inclusive of the Dominican Republic and Cuba, as well as other Caribbean territories;
- Assess the value of Jamaica’s membership in CARICOM on its influence in critical international fora and with third state trade and development partners;
- Assess the benefits from the coordination of foreign policy positions within CARICOM;
- Consider the question of the enlargement of the membership of CARICOM;
- Assess whether the CARICOM dispute settlement provisions provide realistic options for settlement of disputes for Jamaica.
Meanwhile, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith is attending the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in Guyana with Prime Minister Andrew Holness. There are a bunch of press releases related to the meeting on CARICOM’s website: http://caricom.org Security and the economy are very high on the agenda for this meeting, which ends on July 6. I do hope that there will be less talk and more action from CARICOM in the future; although Brexit does provide our Caribbean leaders with fodder for many additional hours of talking.