The Caribbean Community (Caricom) will continue to seek a firmer position for its exports in an increasingly exposed international market. There is no sign of a resolution of the region's disputes with the USA over the EU's preferential banana regime and the extra-territorial provisions of the Helms-Burton act on commercial relations with Cuba. The impact of an adverse decision by the World Trade Organization in the case of the banana issue would be extremely severe for the Windward Islands and countries such as Belize and Jamaica, which are also comparatively dependent upon banana exports to the EU.
--while hopes for greater regional integration seem ever distant
Progress on regional economic integration is likely to be slow over the next two years. The results of recent Caricom negotiations indicate that member states are not fully committed to improving trade links. The agreements reached-- including the creation of a Caribbean Investment Fund and a series of working groups aimed at harmonising policy with respect to major regional issues--were overshadowed by a petty trade dispute between Trinidad and Tobago and two of its regional partners, Jamaica and Barbados. Such developments, as well as the decision to allow some member countries, notably Trinidad, to negotiate membership of the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) on an individual basis, bode ill not only for the future of regional integration but also for the creation of closer links with other regional blocs. The private sector, however, will continue to press the region's governments to formulate a united response within the Caricom framework to the increasingly competitive international trade environment.