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Use strength of integration movement, CARICOM trade ministers told
Published on December 11, 2012 Email To Friend    Print Version

GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- Member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) need to fully utilize the strength of the integration movement in light of the current global challenges.

This was the charge delivered by Lolita Applewhaite, deputy secretary-general of CARICOM to the thirty-fifth meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which began in Georgetown on Monday.

In brief remarks at the start of the meeting, the deputy secretary-general pointed out that the Community was not immune from the global challenges that continued to beset both developed and developing countries.

“Although we have proven time and time again that Caribbean peoples are resilient, and will therefore continue to persevere, it is in such times that we need to utilise the strength of our integration movement to its fullest extent. In this regard it is vital that while as individual sovereign states we would be preoccupied with the responsibilities within our national borders, it would also be to our advantage to look to our regional arrangements as supportive even when they seem to add additional responsibilities. This could perhaps be seen as an investment for increased benefits,” she told trade ministers and other delegates at the meeting.

Acknowledging COTED’s critical role in positioning the member states of the Community to weather this turbulent period, Applewhaite said compromise and an appreciation for ‘the big picture” were important to ensure equity within the trade and economic arrangements of the Community.

“This is the essence of regional integration,” she pointed out.

Among the key items on the meeting’s agenda is a focus on boosting the ability of the Least Developed Countries (LDCs) to fully enjoy the benefits of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). In this regard, ministers will deliberate on the factors and circumstances that restrict the full integration of Belize, Haiti and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) into the CSME. The discussions will be informed by a report on a consultancy that was undertaken to address the issue.

Emphasis will also be placed on external trade matters including the threat facing the CARICOM’s export of rum to the United States, as well as progress being made on the CARICOM-Canada trade and development agreement.

Ministers are also to decide on the way forward with respect to easing the burden of member states in light of the persistent rising cost of fuel and food which is anticipated to continue into 2013. In 2008, the region had singled out the common external tariff (CET) as the means through which relief could have been provided in the short-term.
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