The annual Caricom summit meeting, held in Barbados on July 3-6, agreed upon a number of modest steps towards economic integration, including the establishment of a Caricom Investment Fund. The fund's initial capital of US$50m is to be raised over the next 12 months by the Insurance Company of the West Indies group. A similar agreement in 1991 failed due to financial difficulties. The meeting also agreed on the creation of a Council for Finance and Planning, the abolition of all non- tariff trade barriers by the end of the year, and the transfer of pension benefits from one Caricom country to another.
--including an air services agreement--
The summit also saw the signing by a number of Caricom governments of a multilateral air services agreement, which provides for the rationalisation of services and the creation of guidelines on competition and fares within an "open skies" framework. Air Jamaica subsequently announced that it would begin scheduled flights to the Eastern Caribbean in December, linking Kingston, Antigua, Barbados and Trinidad. A service between New York, Antigua and Barbados would follow in February, with a St Lucia stop being added in March or April. The Trinidad and Tobago airline, BWIA, announced that it was seeking to renovate its existing L-1011 aircraft, rather than acquire new Airbuses as intended by the previous management. The line incurred losses of US$2.5m in the second quarter.
The Air Jamaica chairman, Gordon Steward, told the annual conference of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) in late September that he was interested in working together with BWIA and the regional airline, LIAT, in which BWIA has held a 29% share since its privatisation in November 1995. The CTO board has set a six-month deadline for the development of a strategy to resolve deficiencies in the region's air transport system.
--but substantive progress is thwarted by trade disputes
Little progress was made, however, on the fundamental question of a single market, which had headed the agenda. Instead, Jamaica and Barbados entered into a dispute with Trinidad over what they alleged were unfair subsidies to some of Trinidad's export industries. Jamaica has imposed a ban on imports of Trinidadian electrical sockets, while Barbados has limited purchases of Trinidadian pasta, milk products and soft drinks. Trinidad claims that its strong performance is a result of a favourable macroeconomic environment for exporters.