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SVG approves OECS draft Economic Union Treaty

SVG approves OECS draft Economic Union Treaty

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As St.Vincent and the Grenadines joins other OECS states in deepening sub-regional integration by approving the draft OECS Economic Union Treaty, the new arrangement is posing some “practical problems” even though it generally means well.{{more}}

While debating the Treaty on Monday during the sitting of Parliament, Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves highlighted the advantages of having an Economic Union. However, he was frank in expressing his views on the challenges that will be created by some of the articles. For example, he identified ticklish areas such as Article 10 of the union’s Protocal which deals with ‘Goods In Free Circulation In The Economic Union Area’ and Article 15 which addresses the ‘Co-ordination and Hamonisation of Foreign Policy’.

The motion, which was tabled by Prime Minister Gonsalves, called for Parliament to provide additional suggestions for consideration by the Heads of Government of the OECS for further amendment, if any, to the existing draft treaty.

In winding up the debate on the motion which was approved by both Government and Opposition, Gonsalves noted that the draft treaty on the OECS Economic Union also makes clear provisions for the free movement of OECS Nationals.

The Treaty, admitted Gonsalves, is a far more expansive formulation than the formulation in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas in CARICOM.

Unlike CARICOM which declares one of its main goals as freedom of movement and places skilled nationals into various categories, the OECS Economic Union Treaty states clearly that freedom of movement for citizens shall be secured within the Economic Union Area. Gonsalves expressed that it goes on to say such freedom of movement shall entail the abolition of any discrimination based on nationality between workers of the Protocol Member States as regards employment, remuneration and other conditions of work and employment.

He made it clear that Article 5.4 of the Treaty states that nothing in it requires a member state to undertake amendments to its Constituion, and its obligations as to implementation are circumscribed.

However, he noted that the provision in Article 15 which deals with the process of appointing ambassadors and high commissioners under the heading ‘Co-ordination and Hamonisation of Foreign Policy’ is contrary to the constitution of St.Vincent and the Grenadines and will have to be amended.

The prime minister added that even though the Treaty will return to Parliament in the form of a Bill and will become Domestic Law, there may well be need for other laws. For instance, this may come in the form of a common OECS Union Act which seeks to spell out some of the legislative areas beyond the Treaty.

Gonsalves further stated that more work will have to be done regarding Article 10.2 under the ‘Goods In Free Circulation In The Economy’.

“Currently if you go to St.Lucia, ordinary citizen, you live there for a year, normal person, you buy a vehicle, you have paid duty on it in St.Lucia. You want to bring your vehicle to St.Vincent and the Grenadines, you have to pay duty again on it.

“Now, properly speaking, in a single economy, you should not be required to pay the duty again, but what is the proportion of the duty that St.Lucia has collected which would be passed to St.Vincent and the Grenadines?” Gonsalves asked.

The prime minister stressed that it cannot be fair to St.Vincent and the Grenadines that an individual pays duty on a vehicle in St.Lucia after being there for a period of just six months to a year and pays no duty here even though they would have stayed over a period of more than five years.

Meanwhile, Leader of the Opposition Arnhim Eustace, in his debate stated that he welcomed the progress being made across the OECS sub-region in relation to economic union.

Eustace urged governments across the region to push for the implementation of the Treaty in the shotest possible time.

“It has taken a long time Mr.Speaker, far too long to arrive at this moment, far too long,” said Eustace.

He called on CARICOM to pull up their socks and get ready to deal with their own questions of implementation.

“Nobody out there is going to wait for us. It is our responsibility to do it ourselves. It is our responsibility. It is not something that we can shrug off. If we do so, we do so at our peril and the economies of our region will suffer and hence our people will suffer. I want to urge all and sundry in the OECS not just St.Vincent to take this treaty very very seriously,” Eustace advised. (HN)

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