Integration processes which create closer political and/or economic links between nations which have established their historical identities, are complex and difficult. They are difficult because they involve the building of bridges across some part of the divisions created by national boundaries and which give to each nation its sense of identity and capacity for social cohesion. Accordingly, the pursuit of integration can never occur merely in response to the search for greater size for its own sake, much less to political whims or romantic notions about shared destinies.

Geographical proximity and a common cultural background make integration easier of accomplishment yet neither location nor culture is the cause of the search for larger areas within which to seek the benefits of cooperation. This has its roots in economics. However, it has to be pursued through political action because for structural cooperation to occur, separate Governments have to agree to some form of common action which modifies the existing structure of relationships between each member of the group. The action itself will reflect the extent to which they feel that some part of their interests will be better promoted acting together than apart.

The West Indies Federation was no exception and it failed in 1961 because the political action which it reflected did not convince enough people to accept it as being in their best interests. Yet the underlying economic needs which led to the attempt remained unanswered. Thus it was inevitable that some less ambitious form of political action would have to be undertaken. In due course the idea of CARIFTA was born in 1963 in response to these needs. By 1968 the body was formally established. When CARICOM was formed in 1972, it represented the next logical step forward. And now the decision to form the Association of the Caribbean States in 1994 represents a further advance along the same path. All these steps were taken within an historical context in which nations seek to form alliances with their neighbours to promote economic development and a more effective voice in world affairs.

As one of the founders of CARICOM, I recall that we shared a sense of historical urgency though each had a different view of where the integration process might be headed. For example, Eric Williams was suspicious of Venezuela’s intentions towards the Caribbean. Forbes Burnham had border problems with the same country. Errol Barrow tended to see CARICOM as an end in itself, his emphasis being on the development of the English-speaking Caribbean as a discrete element within the wider Basin.

I shared the concerns and emphases of my major colleagues but also felt that the history which had divided the Caribbean into English, Spanish, French and Dutch-speaking components was not made by us. I felt that we should work to build bridges in economics and culture to bring all the segments of the Caribbean into a closer scheme of co-operation than could he provided by the contacts which arose from our common membership in the United Nations.

Accordingly, I saw CARICOM as the first step in a process of necessary cooperation among former colonial territories. It was the easiest step to take because the founding members not only occupy the same geographical basin but also share a common history and easily compatible cultures. But for me, it was only a first step.

As far back as 1969 I had formulated a theory of "concentric circles" in which former colonial territories would seek closer cooperation with their immediate neighbours while simultaneously building platforms for common action through regional associations and active cooperation with international bodies like the Non-Aligned Movement.

In our case I argued that the CARIFTA group would represent the tightest of our circles, the countries of the Caribbean Basin the next and wider area or circle, the group of 77 in the U.N. the next; and finally, the Non-Aligned Movement as the all-embracing world alliance.

CARICOM was the necessary step to give the first circle greater coherence. For CARICOM itself the founders foresaw a clear political goal which was to assert our collective voice in a region in danger of sinking into neo-colonialism in the aftermath of the attainment of independence. The recognition of Cuba and China in defiance of the wishes of the United States was significant because it represented an early declaration of independence from the more overt pressures of U.S. hegemony.

With respect to the inner workings of CARICOM we hoped it would provide a framework which would promote economic integration in ways not open to CARIFTA with its major emphasis on intra-regional trade. The agenda was widened to incorporate the objectives such as common tariff policies and the promotion of intra-regional investment. The construction of multi-national systems of production and regionally sound economic infrastructure were part of the new agenda. The as yet unrealized plan for an aluminum smelter based on the flare-off gas of Trinidad and Tobago and the bauxite of Jamaica and Guyana was an example of an attempt to create a joint production organisation. The now defunct regional shipping line incorporating nations outside of CARICOM was an attempt to create a regional infrastructure. It was also significant because it foreshadowed the A.C.S. in its wider membership. In the course of the first few years of CARICOM, Jamaica began to pioneer trading links and other forms of economic co-operation with non-CARICOM States of the Caribbean Basin. This parallel action was deliberate and further to the theory of concentric circles. Bauxite trading with Venezuela and later the San Jose accords involving Venezuelan and Mexican oil sales were the forerunners of wider, planned Caribbean cooperation. This provided the background to the formal creation in 1994 of an Association of Caribbean States adumbrated in the recommendations of the West Indian Commission, chaired by Sir Shridath Ramphal.

Looking back across 23 years one can point to considerable accomplishments. Intra-regional trade has increased many times over. The Common External Tariff is at last in place. The work on creating a single market is proceeding. Much cross border investment has taken place and a regional stock exchange has begun, however tentatively, to take shape.

But the outside world has not stood still. The new structure of the world economy barely discernible in 1972, is now sharply in focus, And it is that structure which represents the context within which we must measure our present status and future prospects.

Let us now consider our present and our future at a new moment of opportunity. On August 1 7 and 1 8, the first Summit Meeting of the leaders of the A.C.S. will take place in Port-of-Spain to examine Tourism, Trade and Transport with special emphasis on the contribution each can make to regional economic development. This Conference on these subjects could not be more timely and follows the decision of 25 nations of the Caribbean Basin to create the new Regional Association recommended by the West Indies Commission and demanded by the logic of history. This is so because as technology makes possible the globalisation of finance, production and marketing in an irreversible process, the nation state is more and more failing to provide a geopolitical unit large enough within which to plan and direct economic activity. Hence, trade blocs are proliferating beginning with Europe, and most recently, NAFTA. That is why it is simplistic to believe as some contend, that the first major blocs have come into existence out of fear of the production tigers of the Pacific triangle. The reasons are more profound and since they are bound up in technology and the globalisation process, we can assume that the trade bloc is not a temporary aberration of history. There will he more, not less of it, as time passes. The question we must ask ourselves in the Caribbean is "What does this imply for us?"

Three Options

There are three views: there are some who advocate each Caribbean Territory getting into NAFTA on its own, as quickly as possible, and on the best terms which it can secure for itself.

Then there are those who see NAFTA as a gobbling monster to be avoided at all costs. They hark back to "the good old days" when we were able to negotiate special arrangements for Sugar and Bananas under the Lome Convention.

As a path, the first may be fraught with peril. The second pursues what will be discovered increasingly to be a romantic illusion. Let us consider each briefly as a prelude to the third which I believe to be the path best supported by logic and commonsense.

I will begin with what we may call the unilateralist illusion. It must be conceded that the most advanced of the Caribbean countries could become a part of NAFTA and avoid complete marginalisation. They may have just enough competitive manufacturing capacity and productive diversity to maintain the toe-hold that they now have in the North American market. But the market is not static. Will they be able to expand rapidly enough to improve their position? And what voice will they have in hemispheric relations?

The question that must be asked is relative. Is unilateral entry in a context of isolation the best position from which to take on the full brunt of open competition within the North American system? Is there a better way, a way more likely to enhance the strength of each country’s economy at the moment of full membership in NAFTA? We will explore this when we look at our third path.

Nostalgic Illusion

Let us turn to the second "option" which we may call the nostalgic illusion. Again it must be conceded that the issue is not cut and dried. The very small territories that are particularly dependent on the protections and advantages afforded under the Lomé Convention are in a position of acute difficulty with respect to NAFTA. The problem is, however, that Lomé as we know it is not going to survive beyond the year 2000.

Lome represented a special set of arrangements secured for the countries of the colonial empires at a particular historical juncture. The Independence movement succeeded in a context of historical guilt. This guilt represented a force within the political system of the former metropoles of empire not unlike the guilt which operated upon the consciences of those Members of the House of Commons in Britain who voted for the abolition of slavery. But the real driving force behind Lomé, like the real driving force behind the abolition of slavery was not conscience but economic self-interest. Slavery had become an uneconomic method of production. The immorality of slavery provided a brilliant ethical cover for a cunning retreat from a system that was no longer profitable.

In the case of Lomé each colonial system had guaranteed to the producers at the centre of empire a reliable low cost supply of vital raw materials. At the moment of Independence it was useful for the former colonial producers within a politically tied system to be spared the search for markets in open competition. But it was even more convenient for the manufacturers at the centre of the empire to be guaranteed a safe supply of raw materials without recourse to general competition. The price supports which were provided under Lomé represented the premium that was paid to guarantee the dependability of the system in a new political environment.

Now more than a generation has passed, production at all levels is increasingly organised outside of particular political boundaries and with absolutely no reference to the desires of Governments or electorates. The claim of conscience, such as it may have been, has long since been discharged. The world of systematic, dependable structures of protection is in its last gasp. To tie the hopes of the future to the prospect of new and better Lomes in the Twenty-first Century is, at best, romantic and at worst irresponsible.

And so to the third path which I believe to represent a better hope for the most developed Caribbean territories, the best hope for those in an intermediate stage, and the only hope for the most vulnerable. The action we take must respond to two imperatives: an acceleration and deepening of the integration process within CARICOM: and the broadening of that process to include all the countries of the Caribbean Basin under The Association of Caribbean States. The reasons are as simple as they are fundamental. They are to be found in two concepts: economies of scale and specialisation leading to a rationalisation of production. For example, amalgamations involving two or more companies in different countries but producing the same things can be hugely beneficial. The new corporate entity will enjoy a large capital base and reduced overhead costs in comparative terms. The amalgamation would also facilitate specialised production for different product lines. All these advantages lead to greater competitive efficiency. Then again, the global marketplace reflects patterns of quality and price that are determined by the latest technology. Increasingly, this technology is expensive and difficult to finance in comparatively small operations. The larger the capital base that can be organised for a particular business, the better the chance that the business can afford the high-cost technology. Without that technology it will he harder to compete without either painful depression of wages or unaffordable levels of subsidy. The first is not an option in our socially conscious Caribbean. The second, subsidies are not an option in our cash-strapped Caribbean. Clearly therefore, we have to work for anything that facilitates the process of corporate aggregation. Small may be beautiful but too much of it is too little for survival. Our policies must centre upon widening our immediate markets as the first foundation of the broadening of our capital base.

The same factors apply if we are to accelerate our mastery of the skills which are demanded by the explosion of knowledge-based industries which are not at the cutting edge of economic development.

There are obviously members of CARICOM who can contemplate successful entry into the NAFTA arrangement at this moment. Some may yet succeed in the near future, and in any event, the decision to enter now or not is a purely national one which everybody should respect and which I personally respect. What would, in my view, be an error is to abandon the Caribbean integration process either because an application to join NAFTA succeeded or because it was believed that a particular economy is ready for membership. It is the belief, held by some individuals, that there is no place for the integration process because NAFTA represents a new reality which I describe and believe to be a "unilateralist illusion".

The Price of Survival

The political difficulties to be overcome in working for integration are recognised and they are formidable. Nonetheless, the creation of a single market for CARICOM should be pursued with relentless singlemindedness. The challenge to today’s political leaders is to sweep aside the impediments and mobilise their societies to understand that action is not further to a regional dream but represents the very price of survival in today’s world. Common tariffs, common taxation policies, common investment incentives, represent one part of the equation. An immediate programme providing for the free movement of manpower resources beginning with the more skilled and ending up in due course with a fully mobile labour market is a second element. The removal of all impediments to and the positive facilitation of the free movement of investment capital represents a third element. At the same time, widening the process across the cultural and historical divisions must go hand in hand with deepening integration within CARICOM.

Little of this can be achieved in isolation from the people and what they understand. Indeed this in one more example of the real challenge of democracy. This consists of the education of the people leading to their support of those strategic purposes which lie at the heart of their hopes for a better life for their children. That is why cultural activity and exchange is not to be pursued for the titivation of the elite or the mere entertainment of the masses. We have been so psychologically marginalised by colonialism and by the all -pervasive anaesthetic of United States pop culture that we will lose the capacity for bold action for no better reason than fear. And we will be afraid because we will have lost sight of our own roots and our own capacity for greatness.

There is, therefore, an intimate connection between the logic which underlies our economic prospects and the inspiration which our cultural processes can provide. An integrated Caribbean will create more industries which can achieve the scale of operations to he competitive. Each success will provide the surplus for re-investment in an upward cycle of economic development depending on efficiency and self-reliance. This is where our hopes lie rather than in the search for present favour for past ills.

An example of the challenge we face if we are to see reality in a new light is provided by the transnational corporation. The world is still profoundly affected by transnational corporations’ behaviour. But this form of economic organisation can no longer be rejected out of hand on the basis of a simplistic, global ethic. We must continue to struggle to make these bodies accountable and reflective of a new form of good corporate citizenship, globally conceived. In the meantime, however, they define today’s reality and tomorrow’s shape. The truth is that we need our own transnationals which pull together the resources of Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Venezuela, Cuba and all the rest and it is our duty to work ceaselessly to make it easier for these things to happen.

The new problems which we face if the integration process is to be effectively pursued, are commonly seen in one light: as "difficulties" to be overcome. Certainly, in the context of the present political assumptions and patterns of behaviour the difficulties are very real. At the same time all over the Caribbean there is a growing public unease surrounding political activity and it has nothing to do with the integration process. As unease slides into disenchantment, the level of public involvement in political activity is sinking steadily.

It may well be that the pursuit of the integration process in the vertical and horizontal senses could be one of the causes that re-ignite political interest. The majority of people feel instinctively that the "old ways" in politics are no longer equal to the "new needs". They may not be able to spell out these needs precisely but they know the world is changing radically and they are uncertain of the extent to which traditional political responses can secure their interests in a changing situation.

Integration seen as a challenging opportunity instead of a series of difficulties to be reluctantly overcome may strike chords now missing in the political environment. This is so because integration is a major part of any answer to today’s reality. No marriage between political mission and popular interests has ever failed if the synergy is understood and explained.

[Norman Manley is former Prime Minister of Jamaica]


envisioned by its forefathers and


-25 Years After

By Norman Manley