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Six CARICOM Heads of government are among the leaders of the 71-nation African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, gathering in Libreville the capital of the small French-speaking Central African State of Gabon, for their first ever summit.

The ACP Group is a 22 year old organisation of developing countries linked to the European Union through the Lomé Convention.

The Caribbean leaders will be supported by a team of regional and national advisors including CARICOM Secretary-General, Edwin Carrington, himself a former Secretary General of the ACP Group – and the Caribbean’s Chief Negotiator on the post-Lomé and other trade negotiations Sir Shridath Ramphal.

The Heads of Government heading for Gabon are the Prime Minister of Barbados, Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, the Prime Minister of Belize, the Rt Hon. Manuel Esquivel, The President of Haiti, His Excellency Rene Preval, the Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis, Dr the Hon. Denzil Douglas and the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Basdeo Panday. Antigua and Barbuda, Guyana and Jamaica will be represented at Ministerial level.

The ACP Leaders, many of them fresh from the Commonwealth Heads of Government Conference in Edinburgh, Scotland, will be faced with planning the ACP approach to the forthcoming negotiations for a successor agreement with the EU when the present Lomé

Convention expires in February 2000. Those negotiations are scheduled to commence in September 1998. At stake are issues affecting not only trade in sugar, bananas, rum and rice and significant financial aid, but also the question of new dimensions to that relationship in view of the changing development needs of the ACP States. All of this will need to be reviewed against the backdrop of the new world trading environment dominated by the World Trade Organisation. The Leaders are also expected to take the opportunity to set in train a process of review and revitalisation of the institutions of the ACP Group.

The ACP which was formally launched on June 6, 1975 in Georgetown, Guyana has grown from the original 46 countries to the current 71 with South Africa, its latest adherent. Fifteen of its members are from the Caribbean while 48 are from Africa and 8 from the Pacific.

The Summit which will run for two days from 6-7 November will be preceded by a series of Ambassadorial and Ministerial preparatory meetings.

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