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Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves, left, and other CARICOM leader at the ALBA summit (Internet photo).

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent – The decision by ALBA leaders last weekend to form a single economic space was perhaps one of the most important taken at the 11th Summit of the regional organisation, according to Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves.

Gonsalves on Tuesday explained to journalists here his caution to leaders of the Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America (ALBA) ahead of the formation of the new economic bloc, ECOALBA.

ECOALBA, is being pitched as an alternative to trade and economic links dominated by the United States and the U.S. Dollar and emphasises bartering and payments among ALBA members through the Sucre — a virtual currency.

“… I was welcoming, in fact, the deepening of ALBA, but I was putting the caution that because we are members of these other organisations, that a series of matters would have to be resolves and things put properly on a juridical footing,” Gonsalves said.

The “other organisations” to which he referred was the Eastern Caribbean Currency Union, CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), to which ALBA members St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Antigua and Barbuda and Dominica also belong.

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“It’s not that I wanted to slow down anything, I was welcoming the deepening of the integration movement, from which we can benefit and which we have benefited so far through ALBA-TCP (ALBA Peoples’ Trade Treaty),” Gonsalves further said.

Gonsalves said an interesting set of development is taking place in the integration movement in the region.

“And I just want to say, parenthetically, that I am writing a long letter to the Secretary General of CARICOM and my colleague heads about how strategically I see the integration movement evolving.

“But ALBA is certainly one dimension of that integration movement and now they want to form a single economic space.

“As I pointed out to the conference, I welcome this deepening of the integration process but I take the document which was put before us, to which I suggested important amendments,” said Gonsalves, a lawyer, who Venezuela President Hugo Chavez who inspired the formation of ALBA, described as “ALBA’s lawyer”.

Gonsalves, noting that three OECS members of ALBA also belong to the ECCU and CARICOM, said:

“Clearly, there are cross-cutting issues and ALBA-TCP has to meet, I suggest, with the Currency Union, … to meet with persons from the OECS Secretariat and the CARICOM secretariat.”

Gonsalves said he had already briefed Eastern Caribbean Central Bank Governor Sir K. Dwight Venner on the development.

He said that document ALBA leaders discussed at the weekend contains attractive proposals for special and deferential treatment for the smaller countries of the ALBA-TCP — like those of the OECS — to provide the requisite protection.

“So that it is not going to affect the CARICOM trade with us in terms of the tariff arrangements because our goods are going to go to those countries in ALBA-TCP duty free whereas tariff of a level, imposed by CARICOM, will be imposed on those countries of ALBA-TCP for exporting to us,” Gonsalves said.

“But nevertheless, a decision has to take place because a multitude of arrangements are required to be put on a juridical footing,” he further stated.

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