The unfair treatment is to treat things that are different the same. What is more unfair is to perpetuate the dependence of the already disadvantaged by creating a culture for derogation from the norms and obligations under the system, that promotes dependence and hinders adaptation. – Eldonna Lendor, Trade Consultant
Regional Integration is our Best Alternative
Why did the West Indian Federation fail? Many responses have been proffered to this much deliberated question and I wish to submit my own view on the issue albeit without possibility for resolution. While the notions expressed by the many commentators are germane to the issue, in my view, the principle reason for the failure of the West Indian Federation was that the Federation remained at that time optional as a mechanism for ensuring the advancement and survival of its constituents. A situation, which I dare say, has changed, due to recent developments affecting global trade. At that time, constituents were not pursuing nor were there significant pressure to pursue a common regional trade, economic and development agenda. Principally, there was there no commitment among its constituents to refrain from adopting actions, policies and positions that would undermine or derail the objectives of the Federation. Changes in the global trade environment now dictate regional integration as a critical mechanism for ensuring the survival of its constituents. In the absence of such or similar alliance, the economic viability of that constituent is significantly threatened.
Perhaps there was no principle factor that led to the collapse of the Caricom Federation and its demise was really the result of cumulative factors. In the absence of finite diagnosis, many remain concerned as to whether its successor, the Caribbean Single Market and Economy will satisfy its objectives. Indeed, there may be no real merit in deliberating further on the question as to whether the single market ought to be pursued, since regional governments have already committed themselves to compliance and introduction of the CSME come January 2006. On this premise, it is recommended that the debate should instead focus on how state and non-state actors may advance the objectives of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy. With its inevitable introduction, questions, which must be answered, are, â€œHow can trade arrangements under the CSME facilitate the advancement of individual and regional trade interests? How may disadvantaged countries, regions and sectors exploit its benefits and overcome its disadvantages?â€
One reason why regional governments have lent support to the CSME despite failures in previous attempts at regionalism is because of the prospects that it holds for assisting the region to integrate into the world economy. In fact, it can be said that the Caricom regionâ€™s recent transition to economic and some political integration is pioneered not by the regional climate or psyche but rather global developments in trade which have forced its transition to regionalism as a mechanism for survival.
Choosing to focus primarily on the obstacles and reluctant to embrace and exploit the benefits, many commentators have continued to present challenges confronted by the European Union as a caution to the region to abort its initiative towards greater regional integration. What is striking is that despite reports of its failure and mounting challenges, new states continue to seek membership into the European Union. Perhaps the integration of these European states into the Union stems from recognition that even in their worst state within a regional trade system; their prospects for surviving these harsh â€œglobal trade windsâ€ are much improved over facing it alone.
In the Caribbean, while the option of going alone is no longer an option, we continue to look with suspicion at our Caribbean brothers, treating them like bastard children and at the same time oblivious to the attack being mounted stealthily by bigger sharks. So that while the little fish are in a frenzy, fighting over territorial waters, these schooled sharks, now allies, steaming rapidly in our direction, fuelled by the resolve to survive the emerging currents of global trade with all alacrity, and â€œsheepedâ€ in the guise of 1NAFTA, 2FTAA and 3EU , unknown to us, are already at our doorsteps.