The Prime Minister, Dr Keith Rowley, during the post-Cabinet press conference at the Diplomatic Centre, Ann’s on Thursday. Photo by Roger Jacob

Caricom will begin taking steps to remove Non-Tariff Barriers (NTBs), examine diversified and cheaper means of transport, and develop the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME), in order to improve food security and to diversify imports outside the region, the Prime Minister said during a post-Cabinet press briefing on Thursday.

Dr Rowley, speaking at the Diplomatic Center in Port of Spain, provided an update on the outcome of the 43rd Caricom Heads of Government Meeting held from July 3-5.

Describing the meeting as one of the “most productive”, Rowley said government leaders expressed disappointment at the slow pace of implementation of the CSME and took immediate action to move the process forward.

“We cannot stay where we are and, every six months, say what we want to do, knowing very well that we do not intend to do it because we are more concerned with preserving the status quo. The leaders have determined that now is the time not just to talk, but to walk.

A statement released after the meeting said the heads of government mandated the Caricom Secretariat to convene meetings of company registrars and ministers responsible for companies, to work out measures to enable member states to implement the mutual recognition of any company incorporated in the region before the end. of July.

The statement also said that the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) initiatives and programs to remove non-tariff barriers will be concluded by the end of the month.

“When we establish what officials have asked the secretariat to do, that TT suppliers will more easily supply what they produce anywhere in the region. In the same way, other people who produce similar things or things that we do not currently allow will have access to our market,” he said. “The underlying principle of CSME is that my market is yours and your market is mine.”

He added that Caricom plans to use the land space of several territories such as Guyana, Belize and Suriname for agricultural development and offset the region’s import bill by 25% by 2025. He added that a small Brazilian territory off the Venezuelan border, Roriama, is ready to act as a 14th state and bring its own land space for development, growth and trade.

“(There is) significant production of protein and carbohydrate foods – large volumes of food materials – that Guyana’s efforts leading Caricom towards food security and engaging in the creation of food supply have led Roraima to support Caricom’s efforts to ensure food is available in Caricom.”

“We are of the view that if we put all of these things together and invest and fund them, Caricom would not be as vulnerable as we are now, especially since the predictions are that covid19 is not alone,” said Rowley said.

“It is entirely possible that we will have to plan for similar ‘covids’ or whatever they are called in the future where we end up in a situation where we are competing for the basics of life and we are not in able to buy them even if we have the money.

He said that there will be another agricultural exhibition, this time at TT and it will be held from August 19 to 21.

He also mentioned plans to look into a regional traditional and fast ferry service to improve the region’s connections through transport. But he said that when it comes to air travel, TT would not be interested in using Caribbean Airlines as a regional service provider outside of its current agreements.

Rowley said the decisions stemmed from a recognition of major shocks to the global food supply and major commodities such as petrochemicals resulting from circumstances the world was simply not prepared for.

“We were pushed into this, not because we had a ‘vaps’ and decided we were going to be different from prime ministers of another era,” Rowley said.

“Six months ago, we did not expect to be in a situation where two European countries would be at war. Ukraine and Russia are at war and immediately the global food supply is threatened, the global fertilizer supply is threatened, the global fuel supply is threatened and Caricom had to act.