Prime Minister Browne made the call at the opening ceremony of the two-day 26th Intersessional Meeting of the CARICOM Conference of Heads being held in Nassau, The Bahamas.
While reflecting on the decision of the governments of Cuba and the United States’ to restore diplomatic relations recently, the outgoing Chairman said that the Caribbean could take credit for being on the right side of history in the matter which dated back to 1972 when four independent states of CARICOM “ended the US-sponsored and inspired hemispheric diplomatic embargo of Cuba”.
Turning to issues in relation to trade and economy, the Prime Minster said that the Region was experiencing one of the most challenging periods in its history. He attributed this to the denial of the special and differential treatment to the Region which it previously enjoyed because of its small size, high transactional costs and openness of its markets.
According to Prime Minister Browne, the international community now treated the Region as if it enjoyed the resources, populations, land mass or wealth of places such as the United States and the European Union. He used the opportunity to thank nations such as China, Venezuela and Taiwan for their continued support amid these challenges.
Prime Minister Browne also highlighted that the CARICOM Region’s banking sector was facing a new and potentially devastating threat. “Our Region is being labelled as a high-risk area for financial services” said the former Chairman. According to him banks in the United States and Europe are being made to evaluate risks versus rewards when doing business with CARICOM indigenous banks and banks within its offshore sector. He called on the Conference to establish a committee of Finance Ministers to address this issue because unless the matter is dealt with urgently indigenous banks will be forced to close their doors.
The situation is unfair and it is unjust,” the Prime Minister said.
The issue of CARICOM integration was another area that received significant focus in Minister Brown’s remarks. He stated that all CARICOM people were one and that none of the nations could overcome the current challenges being faced by acting alone.
Only our collective action in defence of our mutual interests will offer resistance to the tides of unfavourable challenges that rush from outside and imperil the lives of our people” stated Minister Browne. He further noted that only united actions would allow the Region to take advantage of opportunities that could better the lives of CARICOM people. He said collaboration, cooperation and unity were needed if the people’s interests were to be advanced.
We need more, not less integration,” Prime Minister Browne said.