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TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO COALITION OF SERVICES INDUSTRIES CALLS FOR CLARITY ON INTEGRATION OF CRNM INTO CARICOM SECRETARIAT

The Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) wishes to express its concern over the lack of clarity and transparency surrounding the integration of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery into the CARICOM Secretariat. The region’s private sector has not been privy to the reasons behind this move nor how it is to be implemented. We hope that this lack of transparency is not sign of the direction in which our trade negotiations are to be conducted in the future. 

First and foremost, the TTCSI is of the opinion that the region’s negotiating capacity must not in any way be negatively affected at this critical time.   During the next few months, the region will be entering into trade negotiations with Canada and, quite possibly, the United States and Central America. Therefore any reduction in our region’s ability to effectively negotiate on behalf of the business community and our people will have a long-term negative impact on CARICOM economies. 

Specifically, the TTCSI strongly recommends that concerted efforts be made by the CARICOM Secretary General to retain CRNM staff who are qualified and who have built up tremendous capacity and institutional memory through successive negotiations on behalf of the region. These persons are too valuable to lose. They have served the region well and deserve our commendation. Where vacancies do arise, they should be filled quickly by equally competent and well-trained staff.
 
To ensure that this happens and that the negotiating unit is able to adequately respond to the needs of stakeholders in the negotiating process, we are also of the view that the CARICOM Secretariat should take steps to prevent the negotiating process from becoming bureaucratic, instead enabling it to remain flexible and proactive. One way to make this happen is for regional governments to ensure that the negotiating unit/department has its own budget. 

The Government of Trinidad and Tobago needs to be involved in these discussions. Our private sector has the most to lose from poorly negotiated agreements and our Minister of Trade and Industry still has regional responsibility for bilateral trade agreements. We thus have a critical stake to protect.  

Finally, we support the call for the head of the negotiating team to be given appropriate diplomatic rank so as to enable him/her to have sufficient access and stature to effectively represent the interests of CARICOM member states in a wide variety of fora. In this regard, we regret the premature departure of Ambassador Henry Gill as Director-General of the CRNM who worked tirelessly for this region and can be proud of his achievements. We wish him all the best in his future endeavours. 

Lawrence Placide
President T&T Coalition of Services Industries
  

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