Coordinated approach necessary to manage external relations – COTED hears

The importance of effectively managing the external relations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) was strongly underscored at the opening of the 45th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on Thursday in Georgetown, Guyana.

Chair of the COTED, the Hon. Paula Gopie-Scoon, Trade and Industry Minister of Trinidad and Tobago,  and Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, CARICOM Secretary General referred to the current international trade climate and stressed the need for coordinated approach to external economic relations.

While many of the agenda items focus on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, the Region’s flagship programme, and trade in goods, Ministers will place emphasis on matters such as future trade with the United Kingdom post-BREXIT; developments within the World Trade Organisation (WTO); and the state of the rum industry in CARIFORUM.

“We must remember that our strength as a Region depends on a coordinated approach to policies. This includes the external economic and trade relations of the Community which we will address during the course of this Meeting”, Minister Gopie-Scoon said at the opening session.

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Regional Trade Ministers meet

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Trade representatives of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States on Monday morning began a two-day meeting in preparation for the Ministerial Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) 9-10 November, 2017.

Given its importance, and the mandate issued by CARICOM Heads of Government last year for a full review, the implementation CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) will be a main agenda item at the two-day Meeting at the Marriott Hotel in Georgetown. Discussions will centre on a draft Public Procurement Protocol, police certificates of character, and the harmonisation of laws.

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Heads of Government to tackle de-risking, BREXIT

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When CARICOM Heads of Government meet in Georgetown next week, they will do so against the background of a number of threats to the Region’s financial and economic stability.

Chief among these are the threats posed by international banks limiting or terminating their relationships with regional financial institutions, and the yet to be determined implications of the British decision to leave the European Union (EU), a key partner in the Community’s development. The BREXIT vote has sent Britain and the rest of the world into a tailspin. The pound sterling fell in value to the lowest in 30 years, and international financial markets took a downturn, as the implications hit home.

The Caribbean is not immune from the potential fallout, and economists and politicians alike are assessing the situation. The majority of CARICOM Member States were former colonies of Britain, which was a key ally of the Region within the EU.

While some have adopted a wait and see stance, confident that any domino effect will not occur in the short-term, others are predicting immediate consequences and want the CARICOM Member States to appreciate the value of regional integration and band firmly together to chart the way forward. The concerns range from a drop off in arrivals in tourist dependent Member States such as Saint Lucia and Barbados where the UK is a major source market, a decrease in development assistance, to effects on trade agreements the Region has with the EU.

Interacting with journalists in Guyana at the weekend, CARICOM Secretary-General, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque said that though the imminent breakaway was not on the agenda of the Meeting, it would undoubtedly be discussed next Tuesday and Wednesday at the Pegasus Hotel in Georgetown.

We have to, of course, be concerned because the United Kingdom is a significant player in the arrangements in the European Union in terms of a voice, that also being a Commonwealth country but a voice as well in the European Union and the fact that it is a significant contributor to the European Union and of course the budget of the European Development Fund,” the Secretary-Generals said on Saturday.

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COTED convenes Thursday: CSME, correspondent banking in focus

Delegates share a light moment on Monday during the first of the two-day preparatory session of the 42nd Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), at the CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana.
Delegates share a light moment on Monday during the first of the two-day preparatory session of the 42nd Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), at the CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana.

Matters that impact on the economic health of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) come under focus in Georgetown, Guyana, when the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) meets Thursday and Friday.

Regional Ministers who hold responsibility for Trade will hold discussions on a range of matters including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), and treatment of nationals travelling in the Region.

There will also be an assessment of the progress that has been made with respect to a draft policy on Micro, Small and Medium Enterprises (MSME). The MSME sector is considered a critical pillar of economic development of CARICOM as it contributes more than seventy per cent of GDP in some Member States and often employs more people than large businesses across the Region. (more…)

All options to be pursued for solution to banking sector threat – CARICOM Chair

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Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of CARICOM, the Hon. Dean Barrow, engages the media at the Press Conference at the conclusion of the Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM
Prime Minister of Belize and Chairman of CARICOM, the Hon. Dean Barrow, engages the media at the Press Conference at the conclusion of the Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM

The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will employ the full gamut of options available to it to confront the banking crisis that is threatening the Region Chair of the Community and Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon. Dean Barrow said. He underscored the necessity of collective action, sensitisation and mobilisation.

There is no doubt that as a group and acting collectively we can achieve far more than if we try to go individual routes. We must never lose sight of or let go of the ultimate need for us to move together as one Community.” – Chair of CARICOM, Prime Minister of Belize, the Hon Dan Barrow

Among the steps Heads of Government have decided on at their Twenty-Seventh Intersessional Meeting which concluded in Belize on Wednesday, was to establish a high level advocacy group, led by Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister, the Hon. Gaston Browne. Prime Minister Browne’s mission is to represent the Community’s interest at all levels, including with the the United Nations (UN), the World Trade Organisation (WTO), and the United States Congress.

The goal is to underline to all the key players, including the US Congress “how absolutely existential this issue is for us”, Prime Minister Barrow said. A letter under the Chairman’s hand is also to be dispatched to the President of the United States.

The threat relates to the possible loss of access to the international financial markets by mainly the Regional indigenous banks. Several international banks, mainly in the US and Europe, have signalled to client banks in the Region an unwillingness to continue carrying their business. The so-called ‘de-risking’ by the global banks threatens to impact several critical services including remittance transfers. International trade, the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients are among the other effects the Region faces.

At a press conference Wednesday afternoon in Placencia, Belize, Prime Minister Barrow dealt at length with the issue of correspondent banking relations and conceded that there was no simple solution. (more…)