Copyright © 2003 International Development Options
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Volume Three Winter 2002-Spring 2003 Numbers 1-2.
Theme: THE TENTH ANNIVERSARY OF THE WEST INDIAN COMISSION REPORT: ASSESSING THE
PROGRESS OF CARICOM NATIONS IN IMPLEMENTING THE COMMISSION'S RECOMMENDATIONS
Political Union: The Road Not Traveled by the West Indian Commission
Patsy Lewis, Research Fellow
Sir Arthur Lewis Institute for Social and Economic Studies
The University of the West Indies
Published online: February 10, 2017
Eleven years ago when the West Indian Commission made its report, it noted that, in its consultations, it had encountered popular interest in a political union of CARICOM states. This interest, however, was not reflected in its proposals for reforming CARICOM. By ignoring this expressed interest in a political union, the members of the Commission continued along the course of integration set out after the collapse of the West Indian Federation: that is, of an economically driven process with politics playing a subordinate, even minimal role. Eleven years later, CARICOM countries find themselves engaged in negotiations which would involve them in integration processes with Latin America and North America which would see the creation of an hemispheric trading arrangement, The Free Trade Area of the Americas; and with the European Union, which could see the traditional one-way aid and trade package of the African, Caribbean and Pacific nations (ACP) and the European Union, the Lomé Conventions, replaced by reciprocal economic partnership agreements. These processes, particularly the FTAA, threaten the survival of CARICOM as a distinct economic grouping and raise some important questions about its continued relevance as an integration mechanism for its members. This article examines the road not traveled by the West Indian Commission: that of a more politically-driven process, with economic integration playing a subordinate role. It examines the renewed interest in political union, which begins with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) political union initiative between 1986 and 1992, the recently expressed interest in political union by the prime ministers of Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados, St. Lucia, and St. Vincent, and the renewed academic debate as reflected in the analyses of Havelock Brewster and Lloyd Best.