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COMMUNIQUE ISSUED BY THE CONFERENCE OF HEADS OF GOVERNMENT OF THE CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY AT THE CONCLUSION OF THE 17TH INTER-SESSIONAL MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE,  9-10 FEBRUARY 2006, PORT OF SPAIN, TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO


Posted in: Communiques | 11 February 2006 | Release Ref #: NA | 786

    The Seventeenth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community was held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, 9-10 February 2006 under the chairmanship of the Hon. Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, and Chairman of the Conference of Heads of Government,.

    Other Heads of Government in attendance were: the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Baldwin Spencer; the Prime Minister of the Commonwealth of The Bahamas, the Rt. Hon. Perry Christie; the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur; the Prime Minister of Grenada, Carriacou and Petit Martinique, Dr. the Rt. Hon. Keith Mitchell; the President of Guyana, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo; the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Hon. Percival J. Patterson; the Chief Minister of Montserrat, Dr. the Hon. John A. Osborne; the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas; the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr. the Hon. Kenny D. Anthony; the Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. the Hon. Ralph Gonsalves; and His Excellency Drs. Runaldo R. Venetiaan, President of the Republic of Suriname. Belize was represented by His Excellency Lawrence Sylvester, Ambassador of Belize to the Caribbean Community while Hon. Charles Savarin, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Trade and Labour, represented the Commonwealth of Dominica.

    Opening

    There were three speakers at the Opening Session of the Seventeenth Inter- Sessional Meeting. All speakers paid tribute to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, O.N., who was attending his final meeting as a member of Conference, having indicated that he would be demitting office shortly after the meeting.

    Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community, His Excellency Edwin Carrington, in calling the meeting to order, referred to the Prime Minister of Jamaica as “a veritable Caribbean Titan”. Immediate past Chairman of The Heads of Government, the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia, Dr. the Hon Kenny D Anthony, in his statement said he would personally miss Mr. Patterson’s calming presence, “his thoughtful and analytical mind, [and] his capacity to focus on the incisive issues.” The Chairman of Conference, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, the Hon Patrick Manning, said he was privileged to be among the fortunate few who would have experienced at first hand the love and commitment for Caribbean people which had been demonstrated by Prime Minister Patterson “in every contribution he makes and every decision he supports.”

    In his brief statement, the Secretary General referred to the formal launch of the CARICOM Single Market which had taken place 11 days before and looked forward to the completion of the process with the accession of the six remaining countries by 30 June 2006.

    The Secretary-General thanked Prime Minister Anthony for his able leadership and wise advice during his tenure as Chairman of the Conference. He also congratulated Prime Minister Manning on his assumption of the chairmanship of the Heads of Government. He indicated that given the Prime Minister’s “long and varied experience and well known statesmanship and the commitment of Trinidad and Tobago to the integration process,” the Community was assured of successful results in the six-month period of his chairmanship.

    In his statement, Prime Minister Manning said the Community was now set to fully develop its potential and build on its strengths with the coming into being of the Single Market and the imminent Single Economy. He said the Region was embarking in a very real way on the indispensable process of self-transformation which could “take us towards the Caribbean Civilisation that has long been our dream.”

    The Prime Minister stated that, in his view, deeper union among Member States was not an issue that could be swept under the carpet.

    “I think that sooner or later, it will bang on the doors of our minds and our meetings; and that whoever occupies the head table in the years to come will be called upon to bring it to the fore, to let it either wither once more or finally triumph as a major destination on which we have been embarked since we took sovereign responsibility for our destiny,” he added.

    Prime Minister Anthony, in his statement, cited the need for the Community to “underpin the shared values in the Charter of Civil Society.” He said the time had come to “adopt Community laws and principles to govern electoral practice and behaviour, campaign financing and integrity and accountability in public life.”

    The Prime Minister of Saint Lucia also expressed his joy that the people of Haiti had once again “embraced electoral democracy.” He said that this time, the voice of the people of Haiti must be allowed to prevail.

    “A clear and unambiguous statement must issue from this Community that it will not tolerate or accept the unlawful and unconstitutional interruption of the democratic process. Saint Lucia urges immediate amendment to the Charter of Civil Society and other appropriate instruments to authorise the expulsion of a Member State which repudiates the democratic process by violence and intimidation,” he added.

    CARICOM Single Market and Economy

    The Heads of Government applauded the signing of the Agreement by The Bahamas to enable the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to make the final step from Provisional Application to Entry Into Force. The Revised Treaty is now applicable to all Member States of the Caribbean Community except The Bahamas, Haiti and Montserrat.

    The Heads of Government complimented all Member States for their effort to comply with their Treaty obligations and agreed to give Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines until 30 June 2006 to become Single Market compliant.

    In that regard, the Heads of Government mandated the Community Council and the Secretariat to follow up closely with those countries to explore all feasible options to ensure completion of outstanding action for compliance by the agreed deadline.

    With respect to the free movement of Skilled Community Nationals, Heads of Government agreed that with the establishment of the Single Market, it was even more urgent that the eligible categories of wage earners be expanded.

    They mandated the Lead Head of Government with respect to Free Movement to consult with the relevant stakeholders and develop recommendations for immediate expansion for consideration at their Regular Meeting in July.

    The Heads of Government lauded those Member States: Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and Suriname, which had already introduced the CARICOM Passport and noted the timetable for the introduction of the CARICOM Passport in the other Member States, while urging them to accelerate the introduction of the passport where feasible.

    The Heads of Government acknowledged the importance of Aliens’ Landholding for the small countries of the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) and mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to work with those countries to develop proposals to resolve the issue of access to land consistent with the Revised Treaty, for their consideration at the Twenty-Seventh Meeting of the Heads of Government in July 2006.

    The Development Fund moved closer to realisation when the Heads of Government agreed that the Development Fund should aim at a capitalisation of US $250 million and, building on the initial pledges of US $17 million already made by the Governments of Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, all Member States should contribute a total of at least US $120 million.

    The Heads of Government noted the progress made, to date, with respect to developing the CARICOM Single Economy (CSE) framework and emphasised that its effective implementation required the active participation of the political directorate and all stakeholders.

    To this end, the Heads of Government lauded the work of the private sector in moving towards the imminent establishment of a Caribbean Business Council, thereby ensuring a mechanism to effectively work with the appropriate institutions of the Community to advance the Single Economy.

    External Negotiations

    The Heads of Government received a report from the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations and endorsed its recommendations with respect to the conduct of the negotiations at the level of the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the European Union/CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) and between the Community and Third Countries.

    The Heads of Government congratulated the Ministerial team responsible for the conduct of the negotiations, particularly the team which had participated in the recent Sixth WTO Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong.

    The Heads of Government paid sterling tribute to the work of the Chairman of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations, the Most Honourable P.J. Patterson, Prime Minister of Jamaica, during the period of his stewardship.

    Sugar

    The Heads of Government took note of the developments since the EU decision to unilaterally change the ACP/EU Sugar Regime that resulted in a 36 percent reduction in price for ACP sugar over the next four years, with the first five percent being instituted in July 2006.

    The Heads of Government agreed to mount a mission in March 2006 comprising the President of Guyana and the Prime Minister of St Kitts and Nevis accompanied by relevant Ministers, to select European capitals and European Union institutions, to outline strongly the Region’s concerns with respect to the proposed measures, in advance of the decision to be taken in April by the EU.

    The Mission will convey that the measures will have permanent adverse repercussions not only for the sugar industry, but for the Region as a whole.

    Bananas

    The Heads of Government noted that a new EU tariff-only regime of €176 per tonne had come into effect with respect to banana imports from Most Favoured Nation countries since January 2006 and that banana supplies from the African Caribbean Pacific Group of Countries (ACP) are being restricted by a duty-free quota of 775,000 metric tons. They further noted that the MFN countries had already given notice of trade litigation action.

    In that context, the Heads of Government agreed that the key negotiating objective of the Region at this time, paying due regard to negotiations with respect to Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union (EU), should be to ensure that the new tariff of €176 per tonne is not subject to further downward revision and that the EU proceeds to bind such tariff in the shortest possible time.

    They also agreed that the Caribbean should secure a tariff preference on its banana exports into the EU within the context of EPA negotiations and further agreed that the Caribbean should request that the EU designate bananas as a sensitive product in the context of WTO agriculture negotiations, in which case bananas would be subjected to very little or no tariff cuts, at least in the current Doha Round of trade talks.

    The Heads of Government took note of the differences in the situation of Jamaica and the Windward Islands producers, on the one hand and Belize and Suriname, on the other. They resolved to make every effort to resolve those differences prior to discussions with the European Union.

    The Heads of Government agreed that Member States would work closely with CARICOM Institutions to find a practical programme for rural transformation and to seek the means to implement it.

    Agriculture

    Heads of Government received an update from the Lead Head of Government for Agriculture, His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, President of Guyana on major developments regarding the Jagdeo Initiative for strengthening agriculture for sustainable growth and development.

    The Heads of Government supported the action being taken to integrate a number of on-going initiatives in order to achieve a holistic approach to the development of the Agriculture Sector. In that regard they noted that the Lead Head of Government for Agriculture had met with Ministers of Agriculture in a Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and that Lead Ministers have been identified to oversee the development and co-ordination of activities in the sector.

    The Heads of Government endorsed a proposal that discussions be held with the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) with regard to allocation of resources specifically for Agriculture and the creation of an Agri-Modernisation Fund.

    The Heads of Government supported the work being undertaken by the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Response Agency (CDERA) to coordinate and integrate the risk mitigation and disaster preparedness system for the agricultural sector.

    The Heads of Government urged that the work in progress be concluded to establish and implement the coordinating mechanism for the work to be undertaken in the further development of the Agricultural Sector; determine the Research and Development requirements of Agriculture and develop and implement modalities for coordination of Research and Development; and identify the sector’s Human Resource needs for development and the proposed measure to supply such requirements.

    The Heads of Government welcomed the proposal by the Government of Barbados to work with the Lead Head with responsibility for Agriculture to seek ways of exploiting the arrangements under the CSME to support production integration in agriculture.

    Crime and Security

    The Heads of Government were apprised by the Lead Head of Government with responsibility for Crime and Security, Hon. Patrick Manning, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, of the status of implementation of the new Framework for the management of crime and security following the decisions taken at their Twenty-Sixth Meeting. They agreed on measures for expediting the process including the appointment of an interim director for the implementation agency

    The Heads of Government expressed concern over the state of crime in the Region, its developing transnational nature, and the upward trend in homicides and kidnappings in some jurisdictions. They agreed to move expeditiously to put in place regional management systems in relation to border control, maritime operations and intelligence and information sharing and discussed measures for implementation in the medium term aimed at impacting on the crime and security situation in the Region.

    With respect to security issues surrounding the hosting of Cricket World Cup 2007, the Heads of Government also agreed to recommendations for expediting security planning including the harmonisation of systems and procedures to enhance border control. They urged that all Member States work towards the timely activation of these systems.

    Petroleum Fund

    The Heads of Government accepted the proposal on the modalities for administering and managing the Petroleum Fund as submitted by the Government of Trinidad and Tobago

    The Heads of Government determined that the Minister of Finance of the countries that comprise the Members of the Bureau of the Conference should assume responsibility for the decisions on the allocation of resources from the Petroleum Fund. . The Heads of Government approved the proposal that US $20 million from the Petroleum Fund should be allocated to the regional Development Fund as a one-off disbursement.

    The Heads of Government agreed that some of those resources should be used to assist in establishing the proposed Regional Development Agency.

    PetroCaribe

    The Heads of Government had full discussions with regard to the PetroCaribe Agreement.

    The Heads of Government welcomed the willingness of Trinidad and Tobago to facilitate the PetroCaribe Agreement, particularly through its indication of support for the application for a suspension of the Common External Tariff in that regard.

    The Heads of Government also agreed that the Task Force on Regional Energy Policy should meet as a matter of urgency to discuss several related issues.

    Cricket World Cup 2007

    With only 394 days to the opening ceremony of the Cricket World Cup in Jamaica, the Heads of Government received a report on the status of preparation by Mr. Chris Dehring, Chief Executive Officer/Managing Director, International Cricket Council/Cricket World Cup (ICC/CWC) 2007 Inc. who pointed out that the overall performance in the nine host countries is rated as “cautious”. The Heads of Government agreed that Governments and the Local Organising Committees would need to work assiduously to ensure that the requirements of the host agreement are met and stated their commitment to staging a successful event.

    Prime Minister of Grenada, Dr. the Hon Keith Mitchell, reporting on the deliberations of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on Cricket of which he is Chairman, highlighted a 10-point plan for spreading the benefits of CWC 2007 to include local and regional businesses, especially the tourism industry, and to ensure that these benefits are transferred to the people of the Region in the form of enhanced skills in events planning and management and innovative ideas.

    The Heads of Government agreed to consider the removal of all taxes on hotel rooms assigned to teams, officials and the media during Cricket World Cup 2007.

    The Heads of Government also received a report from the Chairman of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee with respect to the Sub-Committee’s meetings with the West Indies Cricket Board (WICB) and the West Indies Players’ Association (WIPA).

    The Heads of Government noted the acceptance, in principle, by the WICB and the WIPA of a proposal for the establishment of a three-member team of officials to mediate between the WICB and WIPA in the event of a dispute.

    The Heads of Government welcomed the acceptance by the West Indies Cricket Board of the offer to become an Associate Institution of the Community and mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to conclude the necessary steps, in accordance with the relevant provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.

    The Heads of Government also noted the need for them to clearly define their role in West Indies Cricket in order to ensure that they do not encroach on the functioning of the WICB.

    The Heads of Government mandated the Chairman of the Sub-Committee to engage the WICB with a view to being updated on new initiatives, including the development programmes for the resuscitation of West Indies Cricket.

    The Situation in Haiti

    With regard to the situation in Haiti, Heads of Government paid tribute to the Haitian people for the courage, determination and patience they displayed and the faith they again demonstrated in embracing electoral democracy during the first round of the presidential and legislative elections on 7 February 2006.

    They noted that the Haitian people had responded in large numbers, and in a largely peaceful manner, to the opportunity to exercise their democratic right to determine their elected representatives. Heads of Government reiterated their principled stand that the voice of the people of Haiti must be allowed to prevail.

    Heads of Government indicated that certification of the elections as free, fair and credible by the groups that monitored the elections, including a CARICOM election observation mission, and the resulting return to constitutional rule would open the way for a return of Haiti to the Councils of CARICOM.

    Report of the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network

    The Heads of Government recalled that the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) was established at its Fifteenth Inter-Sessional Meeting (March 2004, St. Kitts and Nevis) to assist Tertiary Education Institutions in the Caribbean in providing increased access to tertiary education for Caribbean nationals by leveraging the capabilities of Information and Communication Technology (ICT), and through collaboration among Institutions.

    The Heads of Government considered the submission made by the Prime Minister of Grenada on major developments with respect to the Caribbean Knowledge and Learning Network (CKLN) and noted the establishment of its office in Grenada.

    The Heads of Government welcomed the information that the institutional strengthening and capacity building phase of the project had prepared twelve (12) Tertiary Education Intuitions in nine (9) CARICOM Member States for participation in the connectivity phase of the CKLN programme.

    Shipment of Radioactive Nuclear Waste

    The Heads of Government noted an indication of an imminent shipment of high level radioactive waste through the Caribbean Sea and the Panama Canal.

    They expressed strong condemnation of the proposed shipment in keeping with the historical position of the Community regarding the shipment of such hazardous material.

    Date and Venue of the Twenty-Seventh Regular Meeting

    The Heads of Government welcomed the offer by St. Kitts and Nevis to host their Twenty-Seventh Regular Meeting on 2 -5 July 2006.

    Tributes

    The Heads of Government paid fulsome tribute to the Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Most Honourable Percival James Patterson, who had announced his intention to demit office imminently.

    All Heads of Government and the Secretary-General delivered personal statements of praise to Prime Minister Patterson, highlighting his immense contribution to the development of the Caribbean people and wishing him well in his retirement.

    Appreciation

    The Heads of Government expressed great appreciation to the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago for hosting the Meeting and for the excellent arrangements put in place to guarantee a successful Meeting of the Conference.

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