By Kurt Campbell
In a push to achieve the true and full potential of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Single Market and Economy (CSME), Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago Dr. Keith Rowley says consideration has begun on putting in place a single company register for the region.
Dr. Rowley told the opening of the Agri-Investment Forum and Expo in Georgetown on Thursday that he and the Prime Minister of Barbados Mia Mottley have commenced talks on the possibility of a single enlarged economic space in keeping with the CSME arrangement.
The T&T PM said such a facility would be necessary, in keeping with talks of producing more within the region, towards food security and reducing imports.
But Dr. Rowley said member states must be willing to do what they know is necessary to achieve that goal.
He said such a register, in keeping with a push to remove restrictions for the free movement of goods and services, would ensure that once a company finds itself on the register, it would be considered registered in all CARICOM territories.
“It is a simple straightforward way to encourage entrepreneurship under the law and remove impediments,” Rowley said.
But beyond that, the Trinidadian Prime Minister explained that significantly increase food production in the region and removing existing barriers to intra-regional trade also bring with it the challenge of transport.
To this end, he said the investment is necessary to ensure that vessels and port facilities are available.
“If you really want to help CARICOM, then help the team of governments to fund and have operating vessels of that nature to bring people together by seas.
“It has been done; it needs to be done. Goods and services by sea after by rail is cheapest,” Dr. Rowley said.
He observed that while phytosanitary measures are important to ensure regional states do not spread diseases among themselves with regard to trades of goods, they must not amount to barriers.
Regional leaders, who spoke at the opening of the forum, all highlighted the need for self-imposed barriers by some member states.
Rowley said he will participate physically at the forum and expo to show his full support for the initiative piloted by President Dr Irfaan Ali.
“Nobody is going to come to do it for us. We have to do it ourselves. Nobody will give us food when food is in short supply. Nobody.
“If we don’t put it in place now, then who can be blamed? The next time it happens, we should be in a better position not a worse position,” Rowley said as he juxtaposed the importance of food security against the experiences of the region during the COVID-19 pandemic and the scarcity of vaccines.
“We are aware of what we need to do, just let’s do it…I have seen this before, heard it before and don’t want to hear it again. We know what to do, the question is are we prepared to do it?”
Rowley circled back as he wrapped up his presentation to ask regional leaders for their acceptance of the giant steps to ensure CSME is truly realised as a caveat for ensuring food security and reducing the region’s food import bill.
“Let’s will remove this chronic impediment of talking while knowing we don’t intend to interfere with the status quo,” he added.