CSME & Cotonou—The Post LOME Agreement

Marcia Forbes PhD


The link between CSME and the post LOME IV Agreement, Cotonou, deserves some exploration if only to determine ways in which one can support the other. Despite the 1989 Grand Anse decision by CARICOM heads to establish a Single Market and Economy “

in the shortest possible time

”, the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas which amended nine Protocols “

in order to create the Caribbean Community including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy

” and provides the legal and institutional framework for CSME, was not signed until July 2001. Even then, only eight of the approximately 14 CARICOM Member States signed this document and the Caribbean Single Market and Economy will not formally come into being until early 2005. January was initially announced but now the signing has been pushed down to February, 2005. At that time only Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago and Barbados will be on board, with the remaining eligible members of CARICOM to sign by latest 2008. In Jamaica domestic legislation to facilitate the CSME was passed only as recently as December, 2004.

Fortunately, because of the Cotonou Agreeement which was signed between the European Union and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in 2000, some momentum on the regional front is likely. The apparent energy of CARICOM over the past few years with regard to establishing the CSME may be related to the thrust of this agreement which holds regional integration as an important avenue through which to achieve its overall goal of promoting a “smooth and gradual integration of ACP economies into the world economy” and get them fully involved in international trade. Cotonou is designed to serve as a driver to the CSME and regards this trade agreement as a stepping stone to meet two other critical objectives. Firstly CSME will assist the region to fulfill its WTO obligations and secondly CSME is seen as a means via which fuller participation in the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) can be achieved.
The Cotonou Agreement has three main focal points, economic and trade co-operation, development strategies and a political dimension. These could be regarded as ‘three interactive pillars’ since success in any one area is somewhat dependent on success in the other two. The political objective is to promote stable, democratic political environments. Development strategies are tied to poverty eradication consistent with the concept of sustainability while trade is designed to facilitate integration into the world economy. The role of the CSME falls primarily in the category of trade facilitation although it would be impossible to divorce it from development as well as political objectives.
There are concerns, however, that the CARICOM track record does not engender confidence in its ability to work within a Cotonou timetable. It did take all of 12 years from the Grand Anse Decision to the revision of the Treaty of Chaguaramas which would facilitate creation of the CSME? And even now, there is tremendous work to be done before the CSME will really begin to have an impact. Although the Cotonou Agreement has a ‘shelf-life’ of 20 years, three and a half years have already gone. The agreement requires that specific targets are met at various stages. Cotonou is subjected to review and revisions every 5 years. Will CARICOM through the CSME rise to the challenge and maximize the opportunities offered by Cotonou, or will we allow time delays and internicide to reduce our chances to capitalize on this agreement? Within the context of CSME being an important cog in the Cotonou wheel, ‘buy-in’ is important and our efforts or lack of it will not go unnoticed.
But all is not lost since, as one writer noted, although the USA and EU are “by far the main export destinations for CARICOM’s products, between 1990 and 1998 the importance of the sub-regional market as a destination for the Group’s exports almost doubled—from 8 to 15 percent.” So although CSME is late off the mark, the race toward regional trade is on in earnest and the hopes of Cotonou can continue to burn brightly.