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The CARICOM Goodwill Mission to Haiti, led by Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia and Chairman of CARICOM, provided, according to Secretary-General Mr. Edwin Carrington, a unique opportunity for CARICOM to obtain a deeper appreciation of the Haitian political climate. This was critical, he said, given the negotiations being undertaken for the exercise by Haiti of its full rights and obligations as a member of the Community by January 1, 2000. At the same time, the visit enabled CARICOM to reassure Haiti of the Region’s continuing commitment to its full entry into the Community following acceptance of its application for membership by Heads of Government in July 1997.

The Mission which was warmly received by His Excellency Rene Preval, President of Haiti, was conducted between Monday 7 and Wednesday 9, December, following a decision of the Bureau of Heads of Government of CARICOM last October in Grenada.

Substantive Discussions

After a ceremonial welcome on Monday, the two leaders initiated the substantive discussions with a private session on Tuesday at the Palais National. This was followed by working sessions with the President and the Prime Minister both of whom led their respective delegations.

The Haitian team included Foreign Minister Mr Fritz Longchamp, Minister of Economy and Finance, Mr Fred Joseph, Minister of Commerce and Industry, Mr. Fresnel Germain, the current Prime Ministerial candidate, Mr. Jacques Alexis and a number of senior officials led by Mme Marie Michele Rey head of the Haitian Technical Negotiating Team. CARICOM’s team included Secretary-General Carrington and officials of the Secretariat and Saint Lucia.

In reviewing the status of the accession negotiations, Mme Rey gave an account of the most recent session held in Georgetown, Guyana in late November and pointed to areas indicated by the Haitian team in which assistance was needed to advance the process particularly as regards the harmonisation of tariffs. The leaders concluded that the areas of potential difficulty were not significant and should therefore not delay the process which envisions the effective date of Haiti’s accession as January 1, 2000. With regards to the particular area of concern – the harmonisation of tariffs – CARICOM assured Haiti that it would do everything possible to provide the technical assistance necessary to finalise that country’s proposals.

In respect of the continuing negotiating process, at the request of Haiti, it was agreed that some future sessions of the negotiations would take place in Haiti.

Technical Assistance Programme for Haiti

Following up on an earlier proposal by CARICOM for a CARICOM/European Union (EU) supported technical assistance programme to Haiti, President Preval identified a number of areas in which such assistance was needed including public works, customs, insurance, investment and the management of public utilities. It was agreed that CARICOM would seek to pursue this initiative with the EU and within that context, provide such assistance as was within its capacity.

Widening CARICOM/Haiti Links

During the discussions, there was general agreement on the need for greater interchange between the people of Haiti and CARICOM. To facilitate this process, it was decided that efforts would be made to promote the early exchange of goodwill visits by various sectors of the society, particularly the private sector and university personnel.

Also in the context of Haiti’s strengthening of its relations with the Region, it was agreed that the process of dialogue with CARICOM would be widened with a view to facilitating Haiti’s participation in various other Regional institutions.

Visit by Haitian President to Saint Lucia

On Tuesday evening at a reception in honour of the Mission, Prime Minister Anthony announced that President Preval had accepted an invitation from him to pay an official visit to Saint Lucia. Both leaders in addressing the function stressed their commitment to complete the process of Haiti’s full acceptance as part of the CARICOM family.

In his statement Dr. Anthony alluded to Haiti as “a special part of the Caribbean family” which “needs to take its place in the Councils of the Region.” It was a recognition of this reality and of the Community’s great pride in sharing in Haiti’s rich and diverse cultural and intellectual heritage that there was such a ” ready response of the Heads of Government of CARICOM to Haiti’s application for Membership of our Community.”

For his part, President Preval welcomed with satisfaction on behalf of the Republic of Haiti ” the renewed interest of the governments of the Region for the strengthening of the solidarity among our Member States. After 25 years, the Caribbean Community is, in this sense, a model of integration and of South-to-South co-operation” in which Haiti looked forward to taking its full and rightful place.

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