The Member States of the Caribbean Community are enjoined by the Treaty of Chaguaramas to present a common front to the external world, both in terms of politics and economics. While the Community’s record in this regard is not unblemished, there is much to be proud of. The Community and its Member States have participated in the drama of the liberation of Southern Africa, collectively affirmed their position during the unstable period in the ‘70s in Central America, recognised the Republic of Cuba and ended the isolation that the United States sought to impose on it, defended the right of Small States, offered assistance and guidance to Member States, whose territorial integrity and sovereignty came under threat, and latterly, created the conditions for its re-positioning so that the benefits of globalisation in political terms can be reaped.
In economic terms, it has successfully co-ordinated its activities on a number of significant global and regional issues, and it has crafted the required mechanism not only to enable it to present a common position to the external world in economic affairs, but has also strengthened itself to participate in the major global negotiations. Economic relations have been developed and expanded with the major power of the Region, the United States, Canada and the European Union. At the same time, the Community made extensive preparations to meet the challenges involved in the negotiations in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the creation of the FTAA.
These documents also clearly demonstrate that the Community as a matter of policy did set out to foster good relations with the leadership of the major International Financial Institutions. Accordingly, at various times the Community has had meetings with the Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, the President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development, the Secretary-General of the Commonwealth, the ACS, the OAS and the Director General of the FAO. Also, relations were cultivated and developed with the Presidents and Prime Ministers of Latin America.
The Report of the West Indian Commission has correctly pointed out that “…we have done enough acting together to wonder why we do not, as a matter of course, seek West Indian solutions to difficult problems which have International dimensions.” This is a good point.
In the period under review the Caribbean Community has shown purpose and won respect when it acted as a single unit. In this mode it has made its presence felt in some of the important Councils of the world, such as the United Nations and the Commonwealth. It is for this reason that Caribbean diplomats are held in high regard by the international community and their opinion sought on major foreign policy issues. The Region therefore, as a unified unit in the field of foreign policy, can exercise influence and authority way beyond its actual economical and political weight.
In economic terms, the best example of the Community acting together is the creation of the negotiating bloc of Asia, Africa, and the Caribbean (ACP). In the ‘70s, this enabled the Region to protect its interests and in the process, it became one of the leaders of the countries in the southern part of the globe. The ACP was successful in the negotiations for the Four Lomé Agreements and the successor Accord which was signed in Cotonou, Benin. The outstanding work done by the Community in the search of a new round of Global Trade negotiations has earned plaudits beyond the Region. The creation of the Regional Negotiating Machinery (RNM) and the coordinating activities it has successfully undertaken to date are likely to bring into being the kind of framework that will make negotiating as a single unit in the area of international economics a less difficult task than in the past. The need for a unified approach to Trade issues will become more urgent as the Community attends to critical negotiations with the FTAA and the management of its economic relations with the important powers of the Sub-Region.
The Widening of the Community is an important subject. For many years after the signing of the Treaty of Chaguaramas the Leaders of the Community examined it in terms of its relationship with other States of the Sub-Region. Then there was a preference for deepening as opposed to widening. All this changed with the onset of globalisation and the need to create a single economic space. The widening of the Community was seen as a response to two developments: the increasing globalisation of the world’s economy and the establishment of major economic blocs. The Association of Caribbean States (ACS) not only, in a sense, formalised its relationship with some of the principal States of the Region but also enhanced the bargaining power of the Community.
The issue of Joint Representation will have to be treated with greater seriousness by the Community. Despite declaration that this must be done; joint representation has been honoured more in the breach than in practice. The fact that as the Twenty-first Century progresses and resources available for diplomatic activities by individual CARICOM States are less easily available, this matter should occupy the minds of the Leaders of the Community. Joint Representation will increasingly become a critical issue and will have to be addressed urgently and in a practical way.