St. Maarten’s Caricom membership request under review

POSTED: 02/16/12 1:11 PM

St. Maarten – Efforts to have St. Maarten attain associate membership in the Caribbean Community (Caricom) are progressing to the satisfaction of the government. On Wednesday Prime Minister Sarah Wescot-Williams said that the request had now been put to a “working group”, headed by St. Lucia to specifically discuss a further clarification of the term ‘associate membership’ and the historical role St. Maarten has played in its interaction with Caricom nationals.
“Specifically some of the other countries were quite interested to learn about St. Maarten and the way that we deal with nationals of different Caricom countries; what are some of the issues those persons face as well as the issues St. Maarten faces with these Caricom nationals,” the prime minister, who eagerly awaits the outcome of the working group meeting, said.

The working group handling St. Maarten’s request comprises St. Lucia, Guyana, Antigua & Barbuda, Jamaica, Suriname, Trinidad & Tobago and Dominica. The prime minister added that she had personally spoken to some of the heads of states of the different countries within the group to further make the country’s case.
St. Maarten made the request for associate membership in July of last year at Caricom’s 32nd regular meeting of the conference of the heads of government held in St. Kitts. If the request is granted, the country will be able to have limited co-operation with partners within the region on issues such as social development, education, health care, information communication technologies, the environment and border control.

In 2001, the Caricom heads of government signed a revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to bring about the practical realization of a single market and economy (CSME) and its highest court, the Caribbean Court of Justice. Within the revised treaty, Article 231 states that the “conference may admit any Caribbean state or territory to associate membership of the community on such terms and conditions as conference thinks fit.”

The current list of associate members includes Anguilla, Turks & Caicos, Cayman Islands, British Virgin Islands and Bermuda.
Headquartered in Georgetown, Guyana, Caricom has among its objectives an improved standard of living and work for countries, expansion of trade and economic relations and to compete on the international market at a higher level as one block.

In 2005 efforts were made by the Netherlands Antilles to become an associate member of Caricom. At that time several members of the private sector voiced strong objections to the move citing the possibility of an increased influx of Caricom nationals to the island and free trade restrictions. However, current associate member states are still allowed to have individual restrictions on certain issues to further strengthen the premise that associate members within Caricom do not have to adopt all of the regional body’s laws.

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