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Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley during his call in the th Ministry of Health COVID-19 press briefing yesterday.

T&T yesterday expressed solidarity with various countries in the region that are dealing with huge spikes in COVID-19 infections and related hospitalisations.

This was confirmed by Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Amery Browne who spoke briefly as a sub-committee of regional representatives met to discuss Caricom’s Single Market and Economy (CSME). The meeting was a curtain-raiser for Caricom’s 32nd Intersessional meeting which takes place tomorrow and Thursday where the CSME will be among topics for discussion. Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley is the current Caricom chairman.

Caricom communication head Leonard Robertson said the sub-committee meeting will discuss the CSME to present recommendations at the leaders’ meeting tomorrow.

The CSME, Caricom’s trade and economic mechanism, covers free movement of nationals across the region in health care, financial services, transportation and communications, tourism, education, business, production-related and environmental services.

Caricom recently indicated that the COVID-19 pandemic will be a key intersessional topic, including the region’s ongoing efforts to deal with negative social and economic effects on countries caused by the virus. Discussions are expected to focus on a recovery path away from the pandemic’s effects.

In that context, the CSME has been seen as a solid platform. Caricom has stated that collaboration among members, regional institutions and the grouping’s secretariat “which proved so effective in the community’s relatively successful containment of the virus, is another factor in our favour.”

Yesterday’s CSME sub-committee meeting was to have been chaired by Prime Minister Rowley. T&T’s delegation at the meeting included Trade Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Browne, his ministry’s permanent secretary and T&T’s ambassador to Caricom.

Browne, who is leading T&T’s delegation, said: “We reiterated our nation’s commitment to the full implementation of the CSME through further amendments to legislative, a programme to digitize the skills certificate application process and measures to increase public awareness of the benefits and implications of the free movement regime.

Browne said the issue of COVID vaccines, sharing and otherwise, were not for yesterday’s meeting.

“COVID specific matters will be discussed (tomorrow) and Thursday,” he said

In recent years, T&T under Rowley has pushed for the CSME to be made a front burner mechanism and furthered in Caricom’s agenda.

Other Caricom sources indicated that leaders’ upcoming discussions on the CSME may not be limited to its status and progress, the question of expansion and possibly any input in the COVID fight. They couldn’t confirm if talks might extend to whether the CSME can aid in the region’s push for vaccines.

But the two-day intersessional will be examining a joint tourism plan and other issues. Other areas expected to get attention are the effects of the global economy on the region, financial issues, security, human trafficking, migrants and the Guyana-Venezuela maritime border issue.