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The integration process of the Caribbean Community is progressing well and the Region is making an effort to liberalise its market, in spite of the concern of countries about their vulnerability. So said Mr. Michael Kergin, Deputy Minister Americas, Foreign Affairs and International Trade of Canada at a joint press conference with CARICOM Secretary-General Edwin Carrington at the conclusion of the Ninth Meeting of the CARICOM-Canada Joint Trade and Economic Committee held at the CARICOM headquarters in Georgetown, Guyana on Friday 20 February 1998.

Mr. Kergin expressed satisfaction with the progress at Canadian funded but pointed out that the focus of aid has changed to emphasise partnership with the countries, with which it deals. The focus now is on the strengthening of Institutions, such as governance, parliament, judicial systems, providing training which shall have an impact on human rights.

Both CARICOM and Canada advocated the use of constructive engagement to help Cuba open its society and promote the development of democracy and improvement in the human rights situation.

“Cuba’s exclusion from full involvement in Regional activities is certainly a loss to the Region” said Mr. Carrington.

He further said that Cuba’s participation in the context of the ACP group may be of great benefit to the ACP states adding the weight of Cuba and its balance of influence to the ACP group. Since Cuba will also benefit economically and financially from becoming part of the ACP, it seems a win-win situation, added Carrington.

The 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM)and Canada have also agreed that the launching of hemispheric free-trade negotiations should be the centrepiece of the upcoming Summit of the Americas.

“The lack of a United States fast-track authority is seen as a setback.” said Mr. Carrington, “but it will not stop the negotiating process and may not be crucial to that process.” He noted that CARICOM is “concerned about the position of smaller economies” in the negotiation and welcomes Canada’s appreciation of those concerns.

The meeting reviewed the progress of current Canadian aid projects in the Region. Potential future projects were also discussed, in particular a CARICOM proposal on economic competitiveness relating to trade.

Other matters discussed included: the situation in Haiti; United Nations reform; CARICOM’s support for Canada’s bid for a 1992-2000 seat on the UN Security Council and Canada’s support for Jamaica’s bid for the following period; the fight against international criminal activity’ and various multilateral issues.

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