Caribbean leaders seek single economy amid crisis
Thursday March 12, 10:05 pm ET By Patrick E. Jones, Associated Press Writer
At summit, Caribbean leaders seek single economy amid global financial crisis
BELIZE CITY (AP) -- Caribbean nations must push forward urgently with economic integration to help the region deal with fallout from the global financial crisis -- including a severe downturn in tourism -- leaders said Thursday.
The 15-member Caribbean Community, or Caricom, has been working for years to implement a common market, designed to facilitate the movement of goods, services and certain workers.
Though the bloc has established a development fund and expanded free movement of Caricom member citizens in the region, it has yet to integrate economies.
"This period in our global history has underscored ... the absolute urgency for this community to have the capacity to act as one entity," said Edwin Carrington, Caricom's secretary-general, at the opening of the two-day summit in Belize.
Leaders at the annual gathering are seeking uniform labor laws and common customs duties, import taxes and tariffs -- and also plan to examine how much damage the economic meltdown has done to the all-important tourism sector.
"Our tourism has been severely affected even within its most lucrative winter season period," Carrington added. "This has led to negative spinoff effects in related industries and activities such as transportation, both land and air, handicraft creation, entertainment and other sales activities."
Also on the agenda is the fallout from an alleged $8 billion fraud scheme involving Texas billionaire R. Allen Stanford.