History of the Caribbean Community

The establishment  of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was the result  of a 15-year effort to fulfil the hope of regional integration which  was born with the establishment of the British West Indies Federation in 1958. The West Indies Federation came to an end in 1962 but its end, may be regarded as the real beginning of what is now the Caribbean Community.

         With the end of the Federation, political leaders in the Caribbean  made more serious efforts to strengthen the ties between the islands   and mainland by providing for the continuance and strengthening of  the areas of cooperation that existed during the Federation. Further,  Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago both attained independence in August  that year and with it the power to control their own domestic and external  affairs.       

           In announcing its intention to withdraw from the Federation, the Government   of Trinidad and Tobago proposed the creation of a Caribbean Community,  consisting not only of the 10 members of the Federation, but also of  the three Guianas and all the islands of the Caribbean Sea – both independent  and non-independent.       

           To discuss this concept, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago  convened the first Heads of Government Conference in July 1963, and  attended by the leaders of Barbados, British Guiana, Jamaica and Trinidad   and Tobago. At this Conference, the participating leaders of the four(4)   Caribbean Countries all spoke clearly of the need for close cooperation with Europe, Africa and Latin America.       

           In July 1965, talks between the Premiers of Barbados and British Guiana  and the Chief Minister of Antigua on the possible establishment of   a Free Trade Area in the Caribbean resulted in the announcement of   definite plans to establish such a Free Trade Area. In December that  year, Heads of Government of Antigua, Barbados and British Guiana signed  an Agreement at Dickenson Bay, Antigua, to set up the Caribbean Free  Trade Association (CARIFTA).       

           The new CARIFTA agreement came into effect on May 1, 1968, with the participation of Antigua, Barbados, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.   The original idea to permit all territories in the Region to participate   in the Association was achieved later that year with the entry of Dominica,   Grenada, St. Kitts/Nevis/Anguilla, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent in July  and of Jamaica and Montserrat on August 1, 1968. British Honduras (Belize)  became a member in May 1971.       

           At the Seventh Heads of Government Conference in October 1972, Caribbean Leaders decided to transform CARIFTA into a Common Market and establish  the Caribbean Community of which the Common Market would be an integral part.       

FOUNDING Fathers signing the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973. From left, PM Errol Barrow, PM Forbes Burnham, PM Eric Williams and PM Michael Manley
FOUNDING Fathers signing the Treaty of Chaguaramas in 1973. From left, PM Errol Barrow, PM Forbes Burnham, PM Eric Williams and PM Michael Manley

           At the Eighth Heads of Government Conference of CARIFTA held in April 1973 in Georgetown, Guyana the decision to establish the Caribbean  Community was brought into fruition with the consideration of Heads  of Government of the draft legal instruments and with the signing by  11 members of CARIFTA (the exception being Antigua and Montserrat).       

           The Accord provided for the signature of the Caribbean Community Treaty  on July 4 and its coming into effect in August 1973, among the then  four independent countries: Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago.       

Original Signatories to the Treaty
Original Signatories to the Treaty

           The Georgetown Accord also provided that the other eight territories  – Antigua, British Honduras, Dominica, Grenada, Saint Lucia, Montserrat,  St. Kitts/Nevis/Anguilla and St. Vincent which signed the Accord would become full members of the Community by May 1, 1974.       

           The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was established    by the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was signed by Barbados, Jamaica,  Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago and came into effect on August 1,  1973. Subsequently the other eight Caribbean territories joint CARICOM.   The Bahamas became the 13th Member State of the Community on July 4,   1983, but not a member of the Common Market.        

           In July 1991, the British Virgin Islands and the Turks and Caicos  became Associated Members of CARICOM, followed by Anguilla in July  1999. The Cayman Islands became the fourth Associate Member of the regional grouping on 16 May 2002, and Bermuda the fifth Associate Member  on 2 July 2003.       

           Suriname became the 14th Member State of the Caribbean Community on  July 4, 1995.       

           Haiti secured provisional membership on 4 July 1998 and on 03 July 2002 was the first French-speaking Caribbean State to become a full Member of CARICOM. 

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