COTEDPress ReleasesStatements and Declarations


Mr. Chairman
Distinguished Ministers
Distinguished Delegates
Members of staff of the Secretariat
Members of the Media

Good afternoon. It is a pleasure in these brief Opening Remarks to welcome you all to this Nineteenth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED). I hope that your journey here was comfortable and without undue stress or harassment.

This meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development can in some ways be considered a watershed. It closely precedes the closure for the preparatory period for the coming into being of the CARICOM Single Market – the first half of the CSME – the Community's flagship activity over the last decade and a half.

By the Twentieth Meeting of the COTED we must be in a position, to confirm, not only to ourselves, but to the rest of the world as well, that we are CSME ready and compliant.

This year, we must put to the test, all the work of the preceding years, in strengthening the legal and institutional framework, to support the productive capacity and to provide the appropriate governance for the Single Market. Therefore, this COTED, is in the nature of a dry run, to rev up the engine as it were, to test our capacity, strength and readiness for a CARICOM Single Market.

When one examines the agenda of this Nineteenth COTED, there is a clear indication that the test is on, that indeed this is The Year of the Single Market.

It would therefore be very fitting if we can make this COTED a most memorable one.

The agenda before us will provide for three broad areas of consideration. Apart from the overarching aspects of the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), it brings to the table two of the other foundation elements, namely, the agricultural sector issues and Trade In Goods. It is my expectation that the next COTED will bring as centrally to the table as this COTED does, the issues relating to the other aspects of the Single Market – services, capital, establishment etc.

As regards the review of the implementation of the CSME it is necessary in the course of the next two days that we examine where we are to ensure that all the actions that are necessary to meet the compliance deadline of the 31st of December 2005 are on schedule.

Our examination and treatment must be thorough and comprehensive as this 19th COTED provides perhaps the last opportunity to tighten all the remaining nuts and bolts and lubricate the running parts of our Single Market mechanism.

As regards the agricultural sector issues being examined, they reflect the primordial importance of this sector in regard to food security, rural development and social stability. They are the basic stuff of which sustainable growth and development are made.

It is heartening that the issues relating to agriculture will dictate the proceedings of the Special COTED, and the examination will be done against the backdrop of the so-called Jagdeo Initiative. President Bharrat Jagdeo as Lead Head with responsibility for Agriculture has placed on the Agenda of the Conference of Heads certain initiatives directed at achieving the main objectives of the Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture.

The critical aim of those initiatives is to ensure the fundamental transformation of the agricultural sector towards market oriented, internationally competitive and environmentally sound production of Agricultural produces.

Honourable Ministers, Ladies and Gentlemen, few things can be more important in our Region's development.

As regards the issue of “Trade in Goods”, the Institutional framework of the CSME inherits and enhances the environment for intra-Regional and international trade, stimulated by cross border movement of capital, investment and production of quality products.

As you are aware, the requirements of the Single Market, as indeed of the Single Economy, call for the active participation of all sectors of our society – Government, Private Sector, Labour, the Media and Civil Society. There is no scope for non-involvement of any sector if we are to get this right.

For example, I have just left the meeting of CARICOM Ministers of National Security and Law Enforcement in Trinidad and Tobago, where the recognition of the importance of security underpinning the creation and operation of a CSME was a central topic.

Two weeks ago, the lead Prime Minister with responsibility for the CSME, the Hon. Owen Arthur, led a brainstorming session of public/private sector/labour/University/NGO participants on the development of the Single Economy.

And just last week, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) organized a major conference of the Caribbean Forum for Development in which the CSME occupied centre stage.

The Region is certainly coming alive to the critical juncture at which we are and the pivotal place of the CSME in our Regions development. Perhaps the greatest responsibility is in leading this process forward falls on this Council. I implore you to discharge it with the greatest possible responsibility.

Our people requires it of us, the international environment demands it of us.

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