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Mr. Chairman
Honourable Ministers
Members of the Diplomatic Corps
Distinguished Delegates
Distinguished Guests
Members of the Media
Ladies and Gentlemen

I hope that the Honourable Minister and the Government and people of Saint Lucia would not find me presumptous if I were to claim honorary citizenship and welcome you to Saint Lucia as well as to this, the Fifth Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR).

I am tempted to claim this status, as apart from being “Simply Beautiful”, I have always found in this beautiful island of Saint Lucia, a true sense of our Caribbean Community, of which I am always made to feel a part.

I stress our Community and that phrase could hardly be more meaningful than in this forum. For it is this Council for Foreign and Community Relations that most exemplifies and represents the essence of the Caribbean Community. It is from this Council that the Community is expected to rise as one to face the rest of the world and it is this Council, as the name implies, that is charged with preserving and solidifying relations among us as a Community.

Mr Chairman, now is the time when we need more than ever that sense of Community, as we face what I can only call the challenge of involvement. Your Council has taken seriously, and begun to discharge its responsibility for readying the Community for the challenge of the international arena.

Indeed your retreat yesterday at Windjammer Landing, continuing a process you commenced at Baracara Island in Guyana, last January has honed in on sharpening the Community's foreign policy strategy to better position the Region for the hard road ahead.

Though more obviously remains to be done in this regard, one thing is clearly certain – any strategy for the Region's improvement will require the full involvement of all sectors of our society, if it is to have any chance of being successful. In this regard, it must always be remembered that CARICOM is not merely the Heads of Government Conference, nor the Ministerial Councils, nor the Secretariat nor even, the Secretary-General. It is all those plus the rest who live and work and play in our 15 Member States and our three Associate Member States so far. It therefore includes our factory owners, our traders, our public servants, our students, our professors, our hoteliers, our sportsmen and women, our media workers to use the words of the famed Guyanese poet, Martin Carter – all are involved; all are consumed.

Mr. Chairman, you know it is easy to stay outside and to throw stones. It is much harder to come inside and build. This Region is daily becoming more deeply entrenched in a complex set of simultaneous international negotiations – in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and with the European Union (EU), which will no doubt determine the fate of our Community. Without exaggeration, they represent the most formidable challenge that our Region has had to face in its modern history. How we fare in those negotiations and emerge from those struggles, for believe me, life threatening struggle they are, will certainly depend on the quantity and quality of our involvement in this process.

Alongside, we need to maintain our other bilateral and multilateral relation, at a time when the international environment is certain not particularly friendly to our Region.

This Council is in the vanguard of these engagements, and in some cases, actually seem like the Biblical David against the Philistinian Goliath. We would need perhaps more than slingshots!

While this Council must take the lead on this front, its efforts can be seriously undermined, if not jeopardised entirely if other Organs of our Community and sectors of our society do not play their full and complementary roles, and do so at the right time. Thus, the implementation of the Single Market and Economy and all its related requirements, must proceed apace, as must our efforts to develop our human resources, and to protect our young people from the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The pursuit of none of these objective can be delayed, and all require our fullest involvement. You will understand therefore, what I meant by the challenge of involvement.

No Organ of the Community is perhaps more aware of this than this Council, which is already involved in negotiations for the FTAA and in the WTO, and which let me remind you, in a mere 144 days will need to sit across the table from our European partners to commence negotiations on our future trading relations with that important trading partner.

Honourable Ministers, there is little to fault the vision of our leaders to make our Region viable and secure. But some questions remain. Are we satisfied that enough has been done to provide the mechanisms for the indispensable involvement of all sectors of our society? Are we satisfied that we have been moving fast enough in our implementation process? Just recently, the Honourable Prime Minister of Jamaica warned that in the matter of the Single Market and Economy, requires great urgency is of paramount importance. Indeed, a review of our total situation, would in my view lead me to conclude that we face a challenge not only of total involvement, but also of full and urgent implementation.

Mr Chairman, ladies and gentlemen, the battle may seem to be well underway but in fact it is really just beginning. We must now be prepared to act together and not be afraid to be ready to take and act upon bold decisions to improve the lives of our peoples. Being in “Simply Beautiful” Saint Lucia, reminds me that it was once said “Faint heart never won fair lady”, and if we wish to win the fair lady of prosperity and security for this beautiful Region of ours, I am convinced we cannot be faint of heart. I am confident that under your Chairmanship, Hon. Minister, this Council is not!

I thank you and now invite the Outgoing Chairman, Hon. Rudy Insanally to address you.

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