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Sunday, June 25, 2006 

June 24, 2006, 4:48PM

OECS Chief Hopes to Beat Deadline

Associated Press Writer
© 2006 The Associated Press

BASSETERRE, St. Kitts — The chairman of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States said the nine-member bloc was committed to joining a regional single market economy but would not confirm if it would be ready by an agreed-upon June 30 deadline.

The nine-member bloc signed a declaration of intent to join the Caribbean Community's single market economy by the end of the month, but Baldwin Spencer, organization chief and prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, on Friday would only say he was "hopeful" that all the bloc's small island nations would become part of the single market by the deadline.
"We are always very hopeful and we believe things will work themselves out. June 30th is not a magic day _ but it is a commitment that we had made sometime ago," Spencer said at the close of the organization's 25th anniversary meeting in St. Kitts.

The organization has long voiced concern about the trade imbalance between their eastern Caribbean countries, which share a common currency, and the 15-nation Caribbean Community.

The prospect of joining the single market has been divisive because some predict it will cause an influx of people from poorer nations and because eastern Caribbean nations fear they will not be able to compete with larger Caribbean Community economies such as Trinidad and Jamaica.

The OECS, formed in 1981, is made up of Antigua and Barbuda, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the British Virgin Islands, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Lucia and Anguilla.

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