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Ambassador Lortie
Distinguished officials of the Government of Canada
Distinguished delegates
Ladies and Gentlemen

First of all, Ambassador Lortie, let me express my appreciation and that of my delegation to you for your kind opening remarks and to the Government of Canada for the warm welcome and kind hospitality extended to my delegation since our arrival.  In spite of these snowstorm conditions, the warm spirit of Canada which characterizes the special relationship which our Region has long enjoyed with your country has been very much in evidence.

Mr Co-Chair, we are very pleased to be in Ottawa today to participate in the Tenth Meeting of the CANADA-CARICOM Joint Trade and Economic Committee (JTEC).  Even though the last JTEC was held as far back as 1998, there have been several intervening meetings at the Ministerial and Summit levels which have kept the dialogue and collaboration  between both sides in political, economic, trade and cooperation matters very much on the front burner.

In this context, Heads of Government of CARICOM and Canada met in Jamaica in January 2001 and in the margins of this year’s Commonwealth Heads of Government Summit in Coolum, Australia.  Our countries also collaborate in different aspects of the Summit of the Americas process and were very active at the Third Summit of the Americas which Canada successfully hosted last year.  Our Foreign Ministers most recently met in Barbados in June this year in the margins of the Thirty-second Meeting of the General Assembly of the Organisation of American States (OAS).  And, our Trade Ministers have frequently caucused during Meetings of Hemispheric Trade Ministers within the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) process, the most recent occasion being at the end of October in Quito, Ecuador.   Finally, both sides are also actively engaged in laying the groundwork for the commencement of negotiations for a Free Trade Area (FTA) between CARICOM and Canada.

The issues we have been addressing in the different  hemispheric and international fora relate to mutually shared concerns on matters ranging from democracy and good governance to the need for greater consistency and coherence in policy in the international arena, hemispheric and regional security and the successful insertion and participation of small states in the global economic and trade environment.  This last issue is of grave importance to all CARICOM  States as a more equitable international trading system will contribute to the sustainability and political and economic viability of our small, vulnerable countries, with economies becoming increasingly more fragile as a result of assaults on established regimes for our principal  export commodities – bananas and sugar come immediately to mind.  Our once-thriving off-shore financial services sector has also been adversely affected by unilateral discriminatory action by the OECD which has eroded a viable alternative for our small economies.

Co-Chair, we will be examining many of these issues in more detail during the course of our discussions today.  I wish to state emphatically, however, that in the long struggle which CARICOM has had in the FTAA and the WTO to have the position of special and differential treatment acknowledged for small economies such as ours, CARICOM appreciates the support it has received from Canada.  The objective – namely to ensure the effective participation in the global economy of all sovereign states – is in the interest of us all.

Distinguished co-chair, ladies and gentlemen, it is worthwhile to recall  that this unique relationship between Canada and the countries of CARICOM is not of recent genesis.  It dates as far back as the late 17th century when salted cod and rum comprised important commodities in the trade between the two Parties.  The relationship has also been consistent throughout.  Canada has always, for example, been supportive of our efforts at integration and at promoting and preserving the sustainable development of our countries.  For example, in support of our attempt at sustaining the West Indies Federation, Canada donated two ships – the Federal Maple and the Federal Palm to facilitate travel/connectivity among our countries.  It is obvious to us in the Region that Canada’s emphasis on Connectivity long pre-dated the Summit of the Americas!

Canada’s contribution, as a founding member, of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has also served the Region well as that institution continues to play a vital role in the development of our Region.

As CARICOM celebrates its thirtieth anniversary next July, its central thrust is the enhancement of its integration process – from a Community and Common Market into a Community including a Single  Market and Economy.  In preparing our Member States for this flagship activity and all it entails, as well as for effective participation in regional, hemispheric and global negotiations, Canada’s support to the Region in several areas continues to be vital.   Substantial resources have already been channeled, with a positive impact, into certain regional priorities crucial to our development such as the fight against HIV/AIDS, capacity development, fisheries development and economic competitiveness generally.

Our collaboration and cooperation with Canada has therefore borne substantial fruit and contributed in no small manner to the social and economic development of our Region.

An area of special importance is the integration of the French-speaking state of Haiti into the Caribbean Community and Single Market and Economy as its fifteenth member.  All CARICOM Member States, aware of the particular challenges facing this newest Member State.  They, however, remain committed to assisting Haiti in overcoming the obstacles to its political, social and economic development.  We appreciate the significant support which Canada has already provided and look forward to its continued contribution to the realization of this objective in the interest of the People of Haiti.

The advantages of our cooperation have, however, not been one-way.  Canada has no doubt reaped significant economic benefits from investment in the Region in sectors such as mining and banking.  It has also benefited significantly from the economic, cultural and other contributions to Canadian development by the many CARICOM nationals that have made your country their home.

We look forward to the continued strengthening of these mutually beneficial ties.

Before concluding Mr Co-Chairman, it would be remiss of me not to mention an important recent development in our relationship with Canada which will undoubtedly deepen the existing strong ties between us.  I refer to the accreditation of H. E. Serge Marcoux as Canada’s first Plenipotentiary Representative to the Caribbean Community.  This, I suggest, is an important backdrop to mark the Tenth Meeting of the JTEC which we expect will yield fruitful discussions and an equally fruitful outcome.

I thank you.

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