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CARICOM – Improving Trade Relations in the Caribbean Community



One can estimate in the near future that economic integration among multiple nations in a specific geographical region will become more commonplace. The last twenty years have seen the progress of the European Union and their common monetary unit, for example, though the EU is hardly the first collaborative economic organization. In the Caribbean, where European influence still remains despite the independence of many island nations, have worked to strengthen equity in trade for nearly four decades. As parts of the Caribbean Community, or CARICOM, fifteen nations and dependencies join forces to encourage good trade relations with Europe.

Since 1973, when CARICOM came into formation to succeed an earlier free trade agreement which linked the region's primarily English-speaking nations, fifteen full members have joined:

  • Antigua and Barbuda

  • The Bahamas

  • Barbados

  • Belize

  • Dominica

  • Grenada

  • Guyana

  • Haiti

  • Jamaica

  • Montserrat

  • Saint Kitts and Nevis

  • Saint Lucia

  • Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

  • Suriname

  • Trinidad and Tobago

In addition, five British territories are included as associate members: Anguilla, Bermuda, the Cayman Islands, Turks and Caicos, and the British Virgin Islands. CARICOM trade and economic business is overseen by a general counsel while social relations are the responsibility of a Deputy Secretary-General. The Secretariat serves the chief position in CARICOM from their official headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana.

Benefits of this union among the Caribbean nations have included:

  • Expedited assistance for underdeveloped nations within the community. One can argue that a common assumption about the Caribbean islands is that most or all are considered "third world." While these countries do not enjoy the industrial advantage of a global power like the United States, the CARICOM nations as a whole represent on average over $90 billion of the world's GDP. Some nations within CARICOM are also more equipped to help others in terms of trade.

  • Civil relations, conflict resolution, and emergency assistance. Through their central headquarters, the CARICOM nations are able to tackle tensions within the community before they become heated. A recent example involving the deposition of Haiti's president in 2004 resulted in the nation's suspension from CARICOM, though the country was ultimately reinstated. Presently, CARICOM members continue to support Haiti following their recent, devastating earthquake.

  • Open borders. The recent establishment of a CARICOM passport allows citizens in twelve of the fifteen member nations to travel easily within the Caribbean. Similarly, CARICOM has made provisions for tourists and visitors to "island hop" during special events such as the Cricket World Cup.

With regards to relations outside membership, the CARICOM nations have agreements with Cuba, Costa Rica, and the Dominican Republic. Proposed agreements with Canada and the United States would further solidify CARICOM's status with the NAFTA nations, as Mexico is already associated with CARICOM as an observing nation. Should relations strengthen between the US and the Caribbean, we may see an increased benefit through tourism which allows US citizens to travel freely across island borders and, perhaps one day, use a currency common among all CARICOM members that keeps the economy in the islands strong.


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