CARICOM and Cuba committed to further strengthening their relations during a meeting at the CARICOM Secretariat in Georgetown, Guyana on Wednesday at which matters related to a joint Disabilities Project, the extension of Art programmes at the Edna Manley College of the Visual and Performing Arts in Jamaica, and trade were discussed.
CARICOM Assistant Secretary General, Human and Social Development Dr. Douglas Slater, and Vice Minister of the Republic of Cuba, the Hon. Rogelio Sierra Diaz, led their respective teams in the discussions.
In relation to the Disabilities Project, Dr. Slater noted that a tri-lateral MoU was signed by the Governments of Guyana and Cuba and CARICOM and a decision taken to implement the Project in phases. The Guyana Government has constructed a Centre and a team from Cuba is already in Guyana working on the Project. Dr Douglas said when the initial phase was completed in Guyana and there was a clear way forward, the Project would be extended to the other CARICOM Member States.
Minister Diaz, in response said firm steps had been taken and it is now important to acquire the equipment needed. He gave the assurance that Cuba would provide support, knowledge and training.
On the matter of the extension of programmes at the School of Arts at the Edna Manley School in Jamaica, the Cuban Ambassador said the Government of Jamaica had been contacted and the areas in which Cuba could provide assistance were identified. He said it was being proposed that there might be some additional infrastructural requirements for the project to move forward and that various options to address this challenge were being explored. Dr. Slater expressed an interest in further engagement on the matter and also gave an assurance that the CARICOM Secretariat would engage with the Edna Manley School to explore the available options.
The meeting discussed the Second Protocol to the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between CARICOM and Cuba, signed last year, under which Cuba will expand duty free access to more than 320 items including meat, fish, dairy products, fruits, vegetables, beer, rum, cement, soap and apparel and CARICOM will grant duty free access to some 50 items, including fish, pharmaceutical products, fertilisers and articles of iron and steel. The Cuban Vice-Minister said he understood that there were legal protocols that would have to be addressed, but implored CARICOM not to allow them to create further delays.
“The goal of the protocol is to improve trade relations between CARICOM and Cuba. The Cuban economy needs the exports of the CARICOM countries and there are great opportunities for CARICOM countries to send exports to Cuba. We need to ratify this protocol so we can start using it”, he said.
CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General for Trade and Economic Integration Mr Joseph Cox advised that the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) was due to meet on Thursday, 14 June, 2018 and he would use the opportunity to remind Member States about the importance of ratifying the protocol.
The Cuban Vice-Minister was accompanied by Cuban Ambassador to Guyana, His Excellency Renaldo Socorro, Director of Caribbean Affairs, Ministry of Foreign Affairs of Cuba, Mr. Jorge Mayo Fernandez, and Cuban Interpreter Ms. Dianna Mora. Representatives from the CARICOM Secretariat included Adviser, Foreign and Community Relations, Ms. Valerie Alleyne-Odle, Programme Manager, Human Resource Development, Dr. Laurette Bristol, and Coordinator, Health and Human Development, Ms. Beverly Reynolds