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The Caribbean recognises that Southern Africa is the sub-region within the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries with which it “can perhaps best do business”.

In making this point on Monday morning at the Park Hyatt Johannesburg Hotel while addressing representatives of the South African Chamber of Business (SACOB) and members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Trade and Investment Mission, Grenada’s Foreign Minister Dr. the Hon. Raphael Fletcher emphasised that this could best be done in terms of exchanges in skills, trade and services.

Dr. Fletcher is leader of the 79 strong Mission which includes four of his ministerial colleagues, St. Lucia’s External Affairs Minister the Hon. George Odlum, Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister the Hon. Clement Rohee, St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ Trade and industry Minister Mr Alexander John-Clarke Horne and Jamaica’s Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the Hon. Anthony Hylton, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Mr. Edwin Carrington is also part of the Mission along with Chief Executive Officer of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) Mr Felipe Noguera.

The Grenadian Foreign Minister reminded his audience, which included Dr Hugo Strycker, former President of SACOB who was chairman of the day’s proceedings, that there must be co-operation between Southern Africa and the Caribbean particularly in the context of the forthcoming negotiations with Europe for a successor agreement to the Lomé IV Convention which governs trade and economic relations between Europe and the ACP Group.

“Our countries risk being those most likely to be affected by the introduction of measures such as graduation. We therefore have need, general and specific, to work closely with each other in honing competitiveness as well as harmonising our positions in various international fora such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the forthcoming ACP/EU negotiations,” he added.

Speaking to what Dr. Snycker described as the largest and most influential business grouping in South Africa, Dr. Fletcher said it was against the background of close co-operation that in coming to South Africa, the Caribbean offered not only the advantage of its geographic location “but also from the many trade and economic agreements to which we are party in our portion of the world”. He suggested such mechanisms as joint ventures and pooling of resources to make inroads into the market.

Later on Monday the Ministers along with the Secretary-General and Mr. Noguera met with South Africa Foreign Minister, the Hon. Alfred Nxo at his offices in Pretoria. On Tuesday the Mission will act as host at a breakfast session which will be attended by the Premier of Gauteng (formerly Transvaal) and leaders of the National African Federated Chamber of Commerce (NAFCOCO). They will also attend a meeting of the Johannesburg Council in the evening.

(filed from Johannesbury, South Africa)

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