Regional Integration

‘It’s a coalition of the willing’

By Andre Bagoo
Thursday, August 28 2008

PM Patrick ManningPRIME MINISTER Patrick Manning yesterday defended his moves to form a regional political union calling it “a coalition of the willing” and saying the current mechanisms of Caricom “are too slow” to achieve the urgent goal of regional integration.

In a move that will deepen concerns over the proposed political union between this country, Grenada, St Vincent and St Lucia and its relationship with Caricom, Manning told reporters that the existing mechanisms in Caricom would not allow economic integration to take place at the required pace given worldwide developments which threaten the future prosperity of the region.

“We feel that the Caricom process is too slow. We are trying to accelerate it and take it further,” Manning said, echoing the views expressed in an August 10 proposal for political union drafted by Professor Vaughn Lewis and Ambassador Cuthbert Joseph.

Manning also downplayed the refusal of Jamaica and Belize to join his proposed political union, saying this was never the purpose of a two-day trip which saw him travel about 6,000 miles and visit four countries in 36 hours as he held in personam talks with regional leaders.

“We are not inviting anybody to join. Whoever wishes to join is free to come forward, it’s on the table to all,” Manning said, adding, “there was never any question of us being blanked.” “It’s a coalition of the willing…any country that’s willing to come we’ll welcome them, but we are not inviting anybody to join,” the Prime Minister said cryptically.

“I hope that nobody writes anymore of Manning being blanked,” he added. “Nobody blanked Manning or any such thing…(These countries) are not opposed, they are just are unable to join.”

Jamaica, Belize and, now, Suriname, have said no to Manning’s union.

The Prime Minister said the political union would be crucial for this country, in light of the end of trade conditions which had previously isolated the region from the effects of competitive global trading. He pointed out that markets of the countries Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) block were this country’s second largest and this was part of the rationale of the union.

“A number of countries are investing in those countries of the eastern Caribbean. And there are a lot of dividends being remitted to our own country that strengthens our economy,” the Prime Minister said.

“It makes no sense for small countries…to stay as individual disparate territories, especially in the context of changed economic circumstances in the world.”

Manning pointed out that preferential access to the markets of Europe, had long expired, the preferential quota access and pricing are no longer existent. Non-reciprocity in trade is also now gone, Manning also said, alluding to a key issue at the heart of the signing of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA).

“It is not a question of one country carrying the other, it is a question of all of us getting together…For those who feel TT is such a strong economy let us experience a natural disaster and see how independent we are,” he said. “It is not us carrying them, they carry us also.”

Several models for the union would be considered, Manning said, by a special committee comprising the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Finance. He said the proposed union might see a common army, currency and common security arrangements such as an anti-drug patrol in the southern Caribbean. The issue of political union will also be debated in Parliament.

Manning flagged the need, however, for adequate consultation on the issue to take place with the population, saying, “the populations of the country would be brought into the process.” But once more he blanked the idea of holding a referendum on the issue, saying cryptically that the population would be “consulted” via the next general election, due one year before the achievement of the union.,85179.html

Related News:

Jamaica PM formally rejects regional political union

Jamaica, Belize blank PM
JAMAICA and Belize have refused to be a part of Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s proposed political union, notwithstanding the Prime Minister’s two-day whirlwind Caribbean tour –which saw him touch down in some Caribbean countries for mere hours– aimed at furthering talks on the controversial union.

Jamaica PM rejects integration initiative
Jamaica has joined Belize in officially rejecting Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s initiative to establish economic and political union among Caricom nations.

Golding: Count us out
Manning in Jamaica pursuing political union

Hurricane Gustav dampens unity talks

Gustav stops Haiti visit
Prime Minister Patrick Manning and the rest of the T&T delegation, including Foreign Affairs Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, were forced to cancel yesterday’s visit to Haiti because of Hurricane Gustav.

Mr Manning’s mystery plan
The trouble with commenting responsibly and sensibly on the integration plan – economic and political – that Prime Minister Patrick Manning has been flying around selling is that we, that is, the people of Trinidad and Tobago, have no idea what is in it. As such we can only weigh in on the manner he has gone about promoting this plan to the particular prime ministers – all else remains in the realm of speculation.

Manning: I was not ‘blanked’
‘…no negotiations, just coalition of the willing’

Prime Minister Patrick Manning says he was not “blanked” by Jamaica Prime Minister Bruce Golding and Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, who said their countries were not interested in the proposed political union between Trinidad and Tobago and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) countries.

Bas: No need for jet ride
…knocks PM for not using e-mail, phone

Did Prime Minister Patrick Manning have to spend US$19,000 an hour of taxpayers’ money to inform and sensitise the prime ministers of Jamaica, Belize, Suriname and Bahamas to his unity proposal?

PM: T&T will vote on political union in 2012
Prime Minister Patrick Manning says the 2012 general election will be used as a “referendum” for his initiative to establish political union with Eastern Caribbean and other Caricom states by 2013.

Warner slams Manning after ‘regional rejection’
Chaguanas West MP Jack Warner is again chiding Prime Minister Patrick Manning’s regional integration thrust.

2 Responses to “Regional Integration”

  • Jamaica and Belize not interested in proposed regional ‘union’
    Jamaica and Belize are not interested in the political union proposed by Trinidad and Tobago and three OECS countries.

    EDITORIAL – The utility of a political union
    What seems not so logical is the emerging view, particularly in Jamaica, that a political union between Trinidad and Tobago, St Lucia, Grenada and St Vincent – however defined and whoever else might go aboard – will somehow undermine Caricom, to the point of making the grouping irrelevant.

    For St Lucia, St Vincent and Grenada, with their economies suffering with the erosion of agricultural preferences in Europe, a Trinidad and Tobago is positive on three fronts. The most immediate is reduced cost of government structures, but perhaps more important is the likely psychological boost from linking with an asset-rich partner and then, for both sides, bigger markets.

  • Coalitions: willing and unwilling by Selwyn Ryan
    Mr Manning has argued that regional unity was a foundational plank of the PNM’s platform, and that Dr Williams and the party secured a mandate to pursue it; that mandate and that dream is still alive and has been passed on to Williams’s successors. It is true that Federation was an article of faith for Dr Williams and the founders of the PNM. The question however arises as to whether that mandate was a “party” mandate or a “national” mandate. Dr Williams never ever fought a general election on the issue of federation. He had in fact promised the country that the issue of federation would not be on the table formally during the 1961 election. In so far as he raised the issue surreptitiously, it was to campaign against federation.

    Independence then and now by Kevin Baldeosingh
    The Federation of the West Indies had collapsed mere months before, and Williams in January 1962 presented an Independence Resolution to the People’s National Movement Convention which stated, in part, “And whereas Trinidad and Tobago will occupy in such an Eastern Caribbean Federation a position in which it represents 55 percent of the population, 75 percent of the import trade, 75 percent of the total revenue, 80 percent of income tax revenue, 65 percent of revenue from import duties, 73 percent of total expenditure…be it therefore resolved that TT reject unequivocally any participation in the proposed Federation of the Eastern Caribbean…”

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