Gas deal between Trinidad and Jamaica is historic moment for region

Nov 11, 2004 01:00 AM

A signed agreement for Trinidad and Tobago to supply Jamaica with liquefied natural gas (LNG) is "more than a win-win situation" for the two Caribbean Community partners, according to Prime Ministers Patrick Manning and P.J. Patterson.
It marks, they said, an "historic moment" for the 15-member Caribbean Community. And it would prove, in the years ahead, of great significance in the economic integration efforts by the 31-year-old Community.

Both Patterson and Manning were quite keen on displaying enthusiasm and confidence as they initialled the agreement. They stressed that the "Memorandum of Understanding" (MoU), signed within half-an-hour after the close of the Tenth CARICOM Special Summit, would do much more than boost trade and economic cooperation between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
It promises to strengthen CARICOM’s overall economic foundation at a time when growing confidence is being shown by governments and an enlightened regional private sector, and as CARICOM pushes ahead with arrangements for a single market by the end of 2005.

Under the terms of the MoU, Trinidad and Tobago will supply Jamaica approximately 1.1 mm tpy of LNG for a 20-year period at mutually agreed prices. But Manning, in his pre-signing comments, said that the intention was to extend to Jamaica concessions consistent with the spirit of "good CARICOM relations".
The signing ceremony came against the background of intense and protracted negotiations between the Patterson and Manning administrations on the still unresolved issue of what constitutes "national treatment" for commercial trading within the Community of a product like natural gas. Eventually, they opted to have the matter to be among the first to be referred for a ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ) when it comes on stream in early 2005, instead of prolonging the delay for the natural gas agreement.

The CCJ is empowered, under the new CARICOM treaty, with original jurisdiction in the resolution of intra-regional trade disputes. In addition to serving as a final appellate court for those countries that would have severed ties with the Privy Council in London.
The LNG cooperation pact is the prelude to the establishment of a huge aluminium smelter project in Trinidad and Tobago that combines the abundant energy resources of the twin-island state with aluminium from Jamaica and also Guyana, as envisaged by Manning. If achieved under the Manning administration, the contemplated aluminium smelter project as a multilateral economic venture involving Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica and Guyana, would mark the fulfilment of a vision articulated in the 1970s by the late Eric Williams, first Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago.

For Patterson, who asked at the ceremony to indulge in a sentimental moment, the signing of the MoU for the gas supply, and the prospects of a major economic scheme like the proposed aluminium smelter, reminded him that both he and Prime Minister Manning had the good fortune to be present as cabinet ministers when the CARICOM Treaty became a reality.
Now he felt certain that their late respective visionary leaders (the late Michael Manley and Eric Williams) would be smiling approvingly -- "wherever they are" -- at the historic initiative covered by the MoU and which coincided with the significant progress made for the realisation of the CSME.

Source: Nation Publishing
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