The Twenty-Eighth Intersessional Meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government concluded a short while ago. I am very pleased to report that we had two successful days of discussions and decisions on issues that are important to moving the Community towards its objectives.
During the course of our discussions, the Conference of Heads of Government reflected on the importance of the CARICOM ‘Brand’, and the pride that we have in our citizenship, citizenry and membership.
Every citizen of this Community must count; every citizen of this Community has rights, and, wherever our citizens are, they have the right to be treated as Caribbean citizens.
There is no such thing as a ‘stateless person’ in our Community. There should be no such occurrence as a citizen of a Caribbean state being treated as inferior in any jurisdiction in the Community.
In our discussions on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, for which we received a review, the matter of free movement of skilled persons was ventilated. We agreed on priority areas to be addressed, including the completion of the protocol on procedures relating to facilitation of travel.
We commended the significant progress in implementation of the CSME. We agreed on priority areas to be addressed including the challenges of payments for goods and services traded within the Region.
We continue to be concerned that some of our previous decisions have not been fully complied with and agreed that the necessary action will be taken to effect compliance. In that regard, the Meeting also addressed the need for the relevant ministerial councils and committees to meet.
The unacceptable levels of crime in the Community engaged our attention. We have resolved to do more to curb the scourge, including placing greater focus on the social determinants of crime, especially among the youth. Our Attorneys-General will take action to finalise Agreements which are essential to the implementation of the Regional Crime and Security Agenda.
We will be seeking to take full advantage of opportunities for capacity-building to address existing and emerging threats, including those related to Cybersecurity and Cybercrime, Crime Prevention and Drug Demand Reduction.
We recognised the need for a regional approach and continued concerted, urgent action:
- to address effectively the challenge posed by the de-risking strategies of the global banks which result in the withdrawal of correspondent banking services;
- to strengthen the integrity of the financial system in CARICOM Member States; and
- to attenuate the perception of the Caribbean as a high-risk Region.
We considered the Strategy and Action Plan submitted by the Committee of Central Bank Governors and we have asked the Committee of Ministers of Finance with responsibility for Correspondent Financing to assume the oversight of its roll-out.
We noted, particularly, the need to strengthen Member States' compliance with the global regulatory standards with regard to Anti- Money Laundering/Counter Terrorism Financing (AML/CTF) and Tax Transparency Information Exchange.
We recognised that tourism is a vital sector in the economies of Member States. We welcomed proposals from the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO) and the Caribbean Hotel and Tourism Association (CHTA) for Advancing a Regional Tourism Agenda particularly through Public /Private Sector Partnerships.
We acknowledged the importance of transportation and facilitation of travel, human resource development, the creative industries and marketing as well as competitiveness and financing for the sustainability of Tourism in CARICOM.
We also asked that the marketing campaign(s) encompass, in particular, the tourism product of the mainland Member States – Belize, Guyana and Suriname.
With regard to travel, Heads of Government called for an urgent meeting of the Council for Trade and Development (COTED) Transportation to address air transport issues in particular, including those related to the tourism sector.
Road map for Single ICT Space
We approved the Draft Road map for a Single ICT Space and commended the Caribbean Telecommunications Union (CTU), the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and the officials who had prepared the document.
The Single ICT Space would be one of the driving forces for social and economic development of the Community. It would enhance the environment for investment and production, provide an opportunity for innovation to flourish, support a sustainable increase in growth and jobs and enhance efficiency and increase access to public services.
We received a progress report from Prime Minister Freundel Stuart on the preparations for CARIFESTA which will be held in Barbados from August 17-27, 2017, under the theme ‘Asserting Our Culture, Celebrating Ourselves’. We acknowledged the importance of the Festival to the Caribbean identity and ‘brand’, and we encourage full participation in this event. We are a unique people and it is important that we showcase the diversity of our people.
We emphasised the importance of the long-standing relationship between the Community and the United States of America. We looked forward to continuing the fruitful and mutually beneficial relationship with the new USA Administration.
We also recognised the importance of the recently adopted bipartisan, US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 that seeks to increase US engagement with the governments and civil society of the Region.
We considered the future of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of Countries (ACP) including the renewal of the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA) which governs relations between the Group and the European Union (EU) and which comes to an end in 2020. That Agreement is a unique and valued instrument from which CARICOM has benefitted with regard to trade, development co-operation and political dialogue with Europe and should be renewed.
The ACP Group remains a valuable construct which has facilitated relations with Africa and the Pacific and that the Group should be strengthened.