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Posted in: Speeches by admin | 24 November 2008 | Release Ref #: 357/2008 | 1248

    Mr. Chairman
    Colleague Ministers and Heads of Delegations
    Secretary-General and Staff
    Distinguished Delegates
    Members of the media
    Ladies and Gentlemen

    I welcome you to this Twenty-Sixth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED). 

    To those of you who have been in Guyana since last week, I hope you had a good weekend and will also take advantage of the next few days to further enjoy our country.

    Let me, on behalf of Guyana, and myself, take this opportunity to express solidarity with all those Member States, especially Haiti, that were affected by the recent hurricanes. Guyana stands ready to do all it possibly can to help.

    Mr. Chairman, it is now almost trite to say that we have a substantial agenda. But we must not fail to thank our trade officials who have worked diligently over the past few days to make ready for this meeting.

    The issues on the agenda are both macro and micro and concern both our internal and external relations.

    It is our collective and individual responsibility at this meeting to address matters as decisively as possible and, where appropriate, to chart the clearest possible course.

    This Twenty Sixth Session of COTED is taking place at a time of great economic turbulence in the global market place.

    The current financial crisis is global in its reach and its impact is predicted to be significant and long lasting. It is estimated that 90% of global trade is financed by trade credits. I cannot say what the statistic is for the Region, but it is not likely to be too dissimilar.

    The implications of this for trade policy, per se, are obvious but in any case, the crisis has reached the real economy and our Community is being affected by the resultant global recession.

    As such, regional trade practitioners should be making a contribution to the current discourses.

    Mr. Chairman, what the present crisis indicates is that the successful realization of the CSME must continue to occupy a critical place in our trade and integration efforts and that it must be given the highest priority.

    The institutional arrangements necessary for the smooth functioning of the CSME, for example, the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), CARICOM Competition Commission and a strengthened CROSQ, are gradually taking shape.

    We have to properly appreciate and take quick account of the place of these institutions in the general scheme of things. Some offer cooperative and less contentious pathways for us to deal with some of the disjuncture that will arise in a community such as ours.

    Let me say, in passing, that the cement study before this meeting offers a good opportunity for both public and private sectors to work together to address the strengths and weaknesses of the industry for the common benefit of the Region.

    The current global crisis is also very much the backdrop for our external trade relations with respect to both the negotiations for, and implementation of, agreements.

    The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) will continue to occupy our Region’s attention for some time to come. The immediate priority is implementation to enforce the provisional application at both the national and regional levels. We will have to acquire and dedicate resources to this, and member states will no doubt rely heavily on the support of our regional secretariats and institutions.

    At the multilateral level, the WTO Doha negotiations require our constant vigilance and readiness to intervene in the Region’s interests.

    The stakes are high for small vulnerable economies such as ours.

    While the mood in Geneva remains mixed in terms of a timetable to move the negotiations forward, I believe our best option is to remain prepared in capitals and in Geneva. The incremental successes we gained at the July mini-ministerial meeting can only be secured and expanded by our being centrally involved; including in the green-room process.

    Mr. Chairman, at the end of this meeting we will no doubt have opportunity again to thank the Secretariat staff for their tireless efforts.

    However, I understand that Ms. Sandra Granger has retired as Head of Conferences Services and would like take this opportunity to recognise the dedicated service that she provided to our meetings over the years and to wish her all the very best.

    Thank you and welcome again.