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PM Spencer pushes for preferential treatment for OECS states
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July 6 GROS ISLET St. Lucia:  Antigua and Barbuda has further highlighted the need for OECS countries to be given special and differential treatment as the discussions continue on the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy CSME by December 2005.

During an intervention on the discussions on the issue at the Heads Meeting on Monday, Prime Minister Spencer said Antigua and Barbuda is in agreement with the broad principles of the CSME, but recognizes the need for governments, policy makers and economic agents to gain a clear understanding of the main issues, effects and implications of this agreement.

“In undertaking commitments as a process of this economic integration, Antigua and Barbuda must ensure that there are regulatory changes needed to ensure harmonising policies to create an integrated labour market. Such changes go beyond the existing General agreement on trade in services commitments and should be finalised before committing to any further market access liberalisation,” Prime Minister Spencer said

He noted that for a region which contributes on average 87% of GDP and 80% of foreign exchange earnings, it is imperative to ensure that services export initiatives within CARICOM include OECS service suppliers and do not focus inappropriately on the OECS region as the target of imports from other CARICOM states.

Prime Minister Spencer said that it is even more important to Antigua and Barbuda, which contributes 90% of Exports and 93% of GDP, to ensure that this integration leads to ongoing growth and global competitiveness of its service industries which is critical to our development and vibrancy of the regional economy.

He pointed out that Antigua and Barbuda and the wider OECS countries must seek Special & Differential Treatment based on size and levels of development. In this regard, although there is an expectation of progressive liberalisation, this should be understood to mean a commitment to gradually extend the number of service sectors in which there is a predictable regulatory regime in which unnecessary differentiation between foreign and national service providers has been removed.

The country’s leader told the heads that more significant to Antigua and Barbuda, the provision of Mode 4(movement of natural persons), whereby the right to require work permits and setting the terms thereof should be retained.  In addition, there must be a mechanism to ensure that there are no economic burdens or further debt derived by the OECS in complying with the CSME. Therefore, he said that the Development Fund is not a matter of choice, but an awaited project while parameters are determined to benefit all OECS countries.

It was also noted that OECS countries cannot be compared to the larger countries of CARICOM, therefore should be treated in a differentiated manner. If S & D is an important part of CARICOM’s position in international trade negotiations, then the same should apply within this integrated framework. The message he said to the wider international community signals that even within regional integration of states with close similarities, there still maintain varying levels of development and vulnerability based on external shocks, and small size.

Heads of CARICOM on Tuesday began the day locked in CAUCUS Session with issues relating to the Caribbean Court of Justice Trust Fund, Bahamas request to opt out of the CSME, the Petroleum Stabilisation Fund and West Indies Cricket being discussed.  The highly important issue of coming up with a position on United Nations Reform in particular that of the Security Council is also on the agenda.

Delegations of Chinese, Japanese, Italian, Brazilian and Indian diplomats have descended on St. Lucia in an effort to persuade the CARICOM heads to support their position.  Prime Minister Spencer met on Tuesday morning with Chinese Ambassador Ren Xioping and discussed Antigua and Barbuda’s position on the matter.

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