The Seventh Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government Of the Caribbean Community was held in Georgetown, Guyana on 29th February – 1 March, 1996.
Heads of Government in attendance were: Hon. Lester Bird, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Antigua and Barbuda; Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Barbados; the Rt. Hon. Manuel Esquivel, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Development. Belize; Hon. Edison James, Prime Minister and Minister of External Affairs, Legal Affairs and Labour, Dominica; Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Grenada; H.E. Dr. Cheddie Jagan, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana; the Rt. Hon. Percival J. Patterson, Prime Minister and Minister of Defence, Jamaica; Hon. Reuben Meade, Chief Minister, Montserrat; the Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister, St. Kitts and Nevis; the Rt. Hon. John Compton, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Planning and Development, Saint Lucia; Hon. Basdeo Panday, Prime Minister, Trinidad and Tobago.
The Hon. Janet Bostwick, Attorney-General and Minister of Foreign Affairs, The Bahamas; the Hon. Alpian Allen, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Tourism and Information, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; and the Hon. Subhas Mungra, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Suriname, represented their respective countries.
The Hon. Edison James, Prime Minister of Dominica and outgoing Chairman of the Conference, delivered a statement at the Opening Ceremony in which he highlighted the difficulties that Dominica had experienced as a result of the exceptionally severe 1995 hurricane season. On a positive note, he recorded the success of the Winward Islands in becoming involved in the marketing side of their banana industry.
The Meeting was also addressed by H.E. Dr. Cheddie Jagan, President of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana and Chairman of the Conference. In his opening statement, he noted that it is imperative that we renew our vision for the Community and re-invigorate the integration process with a sense of urgency.
The Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and the Hon. Basdeo Panday, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago attending a Meeting of the Conference for the first time, also addressed the Meeting. Prime Minister Douglas stressed that CARICOM was needed now, more than ever. He also added that, in the context of the many changes taking place in our trading environment, CARICOM’s role in monitoring the impact of such changes becomes vital to ensure that the Region is assisted to adapt to these developments and that the LDC’s are not unduly disadvantaged because of their small size and high vulnerability.
In his statement, Prime Minister Panday, in reference to development in the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSM&E), stated that Trinidad and Tobago was fully supportive of the efforts being made with respect the development and implementation of the harmonised incentive regimes for Industry, Agriculture, Tourism and other Services which are welcomed as major developments within the Single Market and Economy.
DISCUSSIONS WITH THE PRESIDENT OF THE INTERNATIONAL BANK FOR RECONSTRUCTION AND DEVELOPMENT
During the frank and wide ranging discussions between Heads of Government and Mr. James Wolfensohn, President of the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development (IBRD or the World Bank), the major concerns raised related to:
(i) the challenges posed for the small and micro states of the Region by the global trend towards market liberalisation and the ongoing adjustments required by the Region in response to these changes;
(ii) the access of CARICOM Member States to IBRD and the International Development Agency (IDA) resources;
(iii) the graduation of Member States like Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas and Barbados from access to IBRD resources;
(iv) the graduation of St. and Nevis from IDA resources;
(v) access to the technical assistance and trainind facilities of the IBRD;
(vi) the current situation in which the Region has been making net transfers of resources to the Bank and also to other Multilateral Financial Institutions (MFIs);
(vii) the continuing serious debt servicing problem faced by some Member States and the increasing proportion of debt owed to the MFIs, which do not reschedule payments;
(viii) the Caribbean Group for Co-operation on Economic Development (CGCED) and the need to ensure that it remains a mechanism for effectively co-ordinating efforts to mobilise resources for Caribbean development;
(ix) the current state of human resource development in relation to the critical need to rapidly increase technical, vocational, managerial and entrepreneurial skills while training and retraining the labour force;
(x) ensuring continuing social sector development in the context of structural adjustment and the constraints imposed by limited financial resources;
(xi) ensuring sustainable development in the face of the extreme vulnerability of the Region to (a) external shocks particularly in the wake of recent hurricanes and other natural disasters; (b) volatility in export earnings caused by international market changes; and (c) the threats to the banana industry;
(xii) the importance of the environment and the need for support of the Barbados Plan of Action which arose from the UN Conference on the Sustainable Development of Small Island Developing States and in particular the need for support for reconstruction after natural disasters.
The President of the IBRD expressed his understanding and appreciation of the difficulties and challenges facing the small countries of CARICOM and reiterated the IBRD’s continuing commitment to the Region. He indicated the IBRD’s willingness to:
(i) assist in the Region’s efforts towards diversification;
(ii) treat with the highly indebted countries in a manner designed to assist in resolving this problem. He stated that initiatives including a recently convened meeting of the IBRD, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) have in fact already been undertaken towards this end;
(iii) review the criteria for individual Member States to access the resources of the IBRD; and
(iv) assist the Region in human resource development and capacity building.
The IBRD President reassured CARICOM Heads of Government about the future of the CGCED. He confirmed that the dialogue begun at these discussions would continue at the next Meeting of the CGCED schedule for June 1996.
THE COMMUNITY’S EXTERNAL ECONOMIC STRATEGY
Development of Trade Agreements
Heads of Government approved a Draft Model Free Trade Agreement to be used as a model in negotiations with selected third countries and groups of countries within the wider Region. They emphasised that the private sector should be consulted in decisions in order to determine the timing and prioritisation with respect to countries with which CARICOM might seek to conclude agreements based on that model.
Heads of Government agreed on the composition of a negotiating team which would include representatives of Member States, Regional Institutions (CARICOM and OECS Secretariats and the CDB) and the social partners: business, labour and the appropriate NGO’s.
Heads of Government also agreed that Member States could conduct bilateral agreements where other Member States showed no interest. Every effort should be made to ensure that such agreements did not conflict with the commitments of Member States under the Treaty of Chaguaramas.
Caribbean Basin Trade Security Bill
The Conference reiterated its support for the Caribbean Basin Trade Security Bill and agreed that the Region would work together with Central America to lobby support for the Bill. The Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago would also use the opportunity of the proposed visit of US Secretary of State, Mr. Warren Christopher, to that country next week to reiterate the Community’s interest in the Bill.
Implementation of the Plan of Action Of the Summit of the Americas
Heads of Government considered the status of issues arising out of the Plan of Action and in that context identified those Heads of Government who would take the lead in discussions in particular areas. They also agreed that concerted efforts should be made to secure a meaningful role for regional integration secretariats in the follow-up process.
Given the diverse and costly nature of this process, Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to pool their resources to ensure effective representation of the Region.
They welcomed the formation of a group of eminent economists led by Sir Alister Mc Intyre to advise the Region on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and in particular to address the concerns of the small states of the Region.
Heads of Government agreed to pursue closer co-ordination with Central America in the follow-up process.
RELATIONS WITH EUROPE
Heads of Government noted the recommendation that 45 percent of the funding under the Second Financial Protocol of Lomé IV should be allocated to Regional Integration and Co-operation programmes; 40 percent to Sustainable Development; 10 percent to decentralised co-operation (programmes relative to the private sector and NGO’s); and 5 percent for programmes outside those areas. They also agreed that there should be a special provision for the Haiti/Dominican Republic Programme of Action.
Heads of Government took special note of the view expressed by the EU Commissioner for Development, Professor Joao Pinheiro, to the effect that Europe placed high value on its links with the Caribbean.
They emphasised their appreciation of the Lomé arrangements and the Region’s continuing strong commitment to the Treaty’s purpose and objectives even as the Region intensified its interaction with the Western Hemisphere.
Heads of Government agreed to direct their Ambassadors in Brussels to express the Region’s desire that no change be made in the arrangements which would reduce opportunities for trade with the Overseas Countries and Territories.
Heads of Government agreed that a working group should be established to examine the management of the Region’s future relations with Europe.
Heads of Government reiterated their commitment to develop stronger relations between South Africa and the Region as a whole and note the Secretary-General’s report on his visit to Southern Africa. They agreed that the Standing Committee of Ministers responsible for Foreign Affairs (SCMFA) should further develop ideas relative to the proposed mounting of a regional ministerial trade and economic mission to South Africa and they reiterated their support for the establishment of joint co-ordinated representation by CARICOM States in South Africa.
Heads of Government accepted proposals, which the Secretary-General indicated had been welcomed by South Africa, to investigate trade and tourism links with Southern Africa as well as to provide technical assistance to that region, where feasible.
INVITATION FROM THE UNITED NATIONS DEVELOPMENT PROGRAMME
Heads of Government accepted an invitation to attend the Consultative Meeting on the Sixth Cycle of the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). They agreed that the CARICOM delegation will be led by a Minister from the Government of Jamaica which has lead responsibility for external negotiations. All other States indicated their readiness to attend this important meeting.
ASSOCIATION OF CARIBBEAN STATES
Heads of Government welcomed the entry into force of the Convention establishing the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) on 4 August 1995 and the convening of the Inaugural Summit of Heads of State and Government and Representatives of the States, Countries and Territories of the ACS in Trinidad and Tobago during the period 17 – 18 August 1995.
They extended congratulations to the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on the selection of that country as the Headquarters for the Association and to Dr. Simón Molina Duarte of Venezuela and to the United Mexican States (Mexico) on election to the positions of Secretary-General of the Association and Chairmanship of its Ministerial Council, respectively.
Heads of Government also expressed satisfaction with the convening of the First Meeting of the Ministerial Council in Guatemala on 30 November – 1 December 1995.
They welcomed the mandate given to the ACS Secretariat to enter into special arrangements with certain sub-regional organisations, including CARICOM, to facilitate their participation in the work of the Ministerial Council and the Special Committees of the Association.
Heads of Government were informed that Guatemala in 1 December 1995 became the eighteenth Member State to ratify the ACS Convention. They looked forward to the early ratification of the Convention establishing the ACS by the seven States which has not already done so.
Heads of Government noted the preparations for the forthcoming summit of Heads of Government of CARICOM and Canada and welcomed the revival of this mechanism by which they and their Canadian counterpart could discuss matters of mutual interest.
Heads of Government agreed to issue the following statement on the recent downing of two US registered aircraft by the Cuban military on 24 February 1996:
Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community at the Seventh Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government held in Georgetown, Guyana, considered the downing of two private aircraft of US registry by Cuban Military Forces on Saturday, 24 February, 1996.
The Heads of Government found the incident regrettable and expressed deep concern at the loss of life.
Heads of Government reiterated the importance of adhering to international law as a fundamental principle governing relations between and among states.
The Heads endorsed the call by the UN Security Council for an investigation into the incident by the International Civil Aviation Organisation (ICAO) and urged all Parties to co-operate fully with the investigation.
Heads of Government call on all parties to refrain from taking any measures that could result in an escalation of tension and thus threaten the peace and security of the Caribbean Region.
Single Market and Economy
Heads of Government reaffirmed that the CSM&E remains the single most important priority to be fully achieved by the Community. They recognised that at the core of the implementation of this mechanism is the need for the free movement of labour and capital throughout the Region.
They accepted the invitation of the Government of Barbados to host a Special Meeting on the Single Market and Economy on 30 – 31 May 1996. The Meeting will be convened at the level of Ministers of Trade and Finance.
Free Movement of Skilled Persons within the Community
Heads of Government noted the status of enactment of the draft model legislation by the Community to implement the decision permitting the free movement of CARICOM nationals who are University graduates, subject to the acceptability of their credentials by the Member States concerned. Dominica and Grenada had already enacted the model legislation giving effect to the decision. The Government of Antigua and Barbuda advised that it would enact the harmonised legislation by 29 April 1996. The Governments of Saint Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines indicated that the model legislation would be enacted by the end of the first quarter of this year. The Government of Belize indicated that the draft legislation was before its Cabinet for consideration. The Government of Guyana advised that though previous legislation abolishing the requirement of work permits for CARICOM nationals went some way to meet the decisions of the Conference, it intended to enact the Draft Model legislation and had in fact introduced a Bill to the National Assembly for its first reading. The Government of Montserrat advised that it had implemented the decision by way of amendments to existing Statutory Rules and Orders. The Government of Barbados advised that it was of the opinion that the decisions of the Conference could be implemented by amending legislation before 31 March 1996. It was also considering extending the legislation to cover the employment of CARICOM nationals in regional organisations, institutions and non-governmental organisation (NGOs). The Government of Jamaica reported that it met the deadline of 1 January for the implementation of the decision of Conference by taking administrative action and effecting amendments to existing regulations. However, to ensure harmonisation with the rest of the Community, the Government intended to enact the harmonised legislation prepared by the Caribbean Community with despatch. The enactment of legislation was currently being considered by the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis. The Government of Suriname advised that it was laying the foundation for Suriname’s accession by way of Treaty. The draft legislation has been approved by the Cabinet of Trinidad and Tobago and the Attorney-General has been mandated to lay it before Parliament with all urgency.
Social Security Agreement
Heads of Government noted that the Agreement on Social Security was open for signature during the Conference and that the following Governments has already signed: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Belize; Dominica; Guyana; Jamaica; Saint Lucia and Trinidad and Tobago.
MULTILATERAL AIR SERVICES AGREEMENT
During their deliberation on a report by the Secretariat on the finalisation of the Multilateral Agreement Concerning the Operations of Air Services within the Caribbean Community, Heads of Government renewed their commitment to conclude the Agreement and noted with satisfaction the considerable progress already made in the rationalisation of the operations of regional airlines. The Conference agreed that all outstanding matters relating to the rationalisation process, including the finalisation of the Multilateral Air Services Agreement, would be concluded no later than 31 March 1996.
Heads of Government recalled the role that West Indian Cricket has played in representing West Indian excellence in the field of international sport and they expressed deep concern about its present state.
They considered the future of West Indian Cricket and the urgent need to take practical steps to return the West Indian Cricket Team to its former place at the pinnacle of international cricket.
Heads of Government agreed that a Committee, headed by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda and including the Prime Ministers of Dominica and Jamaica, assisted by the CARICOM Secretariat, should hold an early meeting with the West Indian Cricket Board of Control as part of an effort to determine how best West Indian cricketers and West Indian cricket could be strengthened on a sustained basis.
SITE FOR THE SECRETARIAT HEADQUARTERS
Heads of Government welcomed the announcement by the President of Guyana that the Government of Guyana, through the Guyana Sugar Corporation (GUYSUCO), will make land available for a permanent headquarters site for the CARICOM Secretariat, pending the satisfactory outcome of consultations between GUYSUCO and the consultant in charge of the Headquarters Development Project.
Heads of Government noted that this would be the last conference attended by the Rt. Hon. John Compton, Prime Minister of Saint Lucia.
They recorded their deep appreciation for the role played by Prime Minister Compton over the life of the Caribbean Community, not only in Saint Lucia, but also in the economic development of the Region and particularly the OECS States.
They extended best wishes to him and his family for the future and expressed the hope that the Region would still be able to draw on his considerable experience.
Heads of Government expressed their appreciation to the Government and people of the Co-operative Republic of Guyana for the excellent arrangements that were made for the meeting and for the extremely kind hospitality that was extended to all visiting delegations.
DATE AND VENUE OF THE SEVENTEENTH MEETING OF THE CONFERENCE
Heads of Government agreed that the Seventeenth Meeting of the Conference would be held in Barbados in July 1996.