CARICOM Leaders Delay Sign-Off on Free Movement of Nationals

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CARICOM Leaders Delay Sign-Off on Free Movement of Nationals 2

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have missed the anticipated deadline to finalize arrangements for the free and full movement of CARICOM nationals, which was expected by the end of last month. Despite efforts and discussions during a summit in Guyana earlier this year, where optimism was expressed about achieving this milestone, the leaders were unable to conclude the necessary amendments to the treaty.

In February, at the conclusion of the Guyana summit, Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley, who holds lead responsibility for the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), indicated that progress was on track. However, subsequent virtual meetings among the heads of state have led to the decision that further discussions are required. These discussions aim to address the remaining amendments, with the next meeting scheduled in Grenada to hopefully finalize the treaty changes.

The CSME framework, designed to facilitate the seamless movement of goods, skills, labor, and services across the region, currently allows specific categories of workers, such as university graduates, artistes, and nurses, among others, to move freely with a CARICOM Skills Certificate. However, the full implementation of free movement for all CARICOM nationals remains incomplete.

Two key policy issues, critical for the operationalization of full free movement, were identified for resolution. These matters were referred to an intergovernmental task force and the CARICOM Legal Affairs Committee, with the hope of reaching a consensus by March 15. Nonetheless, these efforts have yet to yield the necessary sign-off.

Antigua and Barbuda, in the midst of these negotiations, has expressed a preference to retain its current skills regime to better address local labor market demands. Similarly, The Bahamas and Bermuda have indicated their non-participation in the region-wide free movement initiative.

As CARICOM leaders continue to navigate through the complexities of regional integration and the ambition of full free movement, the community watches and waits for a resolution that balances national interests with the collective goals of the Caribbean region.

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