Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA)

CARIFTA or the Caribbean Free Trade Association was an economic integration project between several Caribbean States. This free trade area between Anglophone Caribbean countries was operational between 1965 and 1972.

As a consequence of the end of the political union that the Federation of the West Indies supposed, a new economic cooperation between Caribbean countries was proposed in the form of a free trade area under the name of CARIFTA (Caribbean Free Trade Association).

As it was a process of economic integration, the aim was to stimulate free trade between the Caribbean States. To this end, measures were implemented such as the elimination of tariffs and the end of other non-tariff barriers, such as import quotas for products from member countries.

However, in 1973, CARIFTA was replaced by CARICOM, a similar organization also geared towards economic cooperation.

A brief history

The end of the West Indies made it impossible for the Caribbean nations to integrate politically into a single state. In view of this, the different Caribbean peoples considered that, despite the lack of political union, collaboration in economic matters was an essential element.

This process of economic cooperation had its starting point in 1965. It all began with the negotiations between Barbados and British Guiana and, at the end of 1965, Antigua and Barbuda also joined the project. More States would join this initiative over time.

The great expansion of CARIFTA took place in 1968, when countries such as Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Grenada, Dominica, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Jamaica, Montserrat and Saint Vincent and the Grenadines joined the free trade area.

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Thanks to this, CARIFTA members promoted free trade through the reduction and elimination of tariffs.

It is true that the elimination of tariffs was not without controversy, since many Caribbean States obtained important sources of income thanks to the tariffs imposed on foreign products. All this caused reluctance in certain countries, which acted with suspicion when it came to eliminating or reducing tariffs.

Strong discrepancies in tariff matters were the cause of CARIFTA’s short history (1965-1972). But despite crucial divergences, the CARIFTA experience served as a precedent for CARICOM.

What was CARIFTA used for?

Although the economic integration of the Caribbean sought to improve relations between the different countries, it also sought to increase the resource endowment of the Caribbean States through the promotion of free trade among its members.

Therefore, the goals of CARIFTA were the following:

  • Increased trade between member countries.
  • Increase in the provision of goods and services within the free trade area.
  • Elimination of export quotas and tariff barriers.
  • Promote free competition and support small business.
  • Fair distribution of the wealth generated by free trade.
  • Promote industrialization and promote the marketing of agricultural products.
  • Reduction of customs tariffs on certain goods for less developed countries.

Internal organization of CARIFTA

Among the different bodies that governed the operation of CARIFTA were:

  • Conference of Heads of Government: It consisted of the meeting of the heads of government, it worked on the expansion of CARIFTA.
  • The advice: Each country had a representative on the Council. This instance managed the free trade area, as well as performing court functions and imposing safeguard measures.
  • Caribbean Commonwealth Regional Secretariat: He performed functions of an administrative nature and tasks delegated by the Council. He was in charge of carrying out technical studies and supervised compliance with the resolutions that emanated from the Council.
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