It is my privilege, on behalf of the Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), to address this opening session. Mr President, at the outset let me express on behalf of all delegations both our gratitude for the generosity of your Government which has made splendid arrangements for us to participate in this Summit, and our pleasure at the warm hospitality extended to us by the Mexican people since our arrival. It is also my special pleasure, as host of the last CARICOM-Mexico meeting held in Barbados in May 2012, to be here with you today.
The fact that we are gathered for our Third Summit in four years underlines the strength of relations between CARICOM and Mexico and also speaks to our collective desire for enhanced and deepened co-operation. These meetings provide an excellent opportunity for CARICOM and Mexico to engage at the highest political level in productive discussions aimed at heightening further existing levels of cooperation, and at reaching agreement on concrete measures for deepening our relationship.
It will also allow both sides to discuss ways in which we can continue to coordinate positions in the hemispheric and international bodies to which we both belong, such as the Association of Caribbean States (ACS), Organisation of American States (OAS), the United Nations, the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) and the CELAC-European Union (EU-CELAC) process.
There are particular issues which resonate with both CARICOM and Mexico. First we are brought together by the shared Caribbean Sea. Foremost among the issues of mutual concern, I venture to postulate, would be climate change and disaster management, agriculture, and food and nutrition security. To those we would like to add the defining of the Post-2015 Development Agenda.
As negotiations progress on that matter, the concerns of Small Island Developing States, particularly as they refer to the need to reduce vulnerability and increase resilience in all their forms, must also be a concern for all countries.
Mexico’s membership of the G20 provides an important platform for it to promulgate the views of small states such as ours, thus enabling a greater understanding and acceptance of the peculiar circumstances which apply to us. The 2008 global economic and financial crisis has exacerbated the economic challenges faced by our Member States. Many are struggling under high debt burdens.
Their classification as middle-income, upper-middle income, or high-income countries limits access to vital concessionary and development financing. CARICOM will continue to advocate for an alternative measure of development to that of GDP per capita, and for these measures to take into account the overall conditions of our vulnerability and resilience in the context of sustainable development. We will continue to need Mexico’s valuable support in that endeavour.
In the past year the international community took a major step towards improving the ability to harness the illegal trade in arms, which has been a major contributor to the security challenges which we all face, with the adoption of the Arms Trade Treaty (ATT) by the UN General Assembly in April 2013. The task now is for us to work together to achieve its prompt entry into force and its full implementation as the first legally binding international instrument on conventional weapons trade. As that work progresses we will be seeking Mexico’s support for Trinidad and Tobago’s initiative to host the Treaty’s Secretariat. Mexico can be assured that CARICOM will also be looking favourably on its aspiration to host the first session of the Conference of States Parties to the Treaty.
Few will be in doubt about the imperative need, at this time more than ever, for the Caribbean and Latin America to deepen our relations, particularly as they relate to the improvement of our trade and investment ties. It is within our capacity to demonstrate to all the value of South-South co-operation, and CARICOM and Mexico have an important role to play as pioneers with four decades of experience in that regard.
Mexico’s initiative in establishing the Infrastructure Fund for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean is a clear indication of your commitment to the development of the wider region, and your willingness to be a responsible partner in assisting with the development of your neighbours. CARICOM is fully aware that its growth and development agenda will be significantly advanced through enhancing, in particular, its transportation and its Information and Communication Technology (ICT) infrastructure. Strategies to achieve these goals are being actively pursued. In that connection, we take note also of your initiatives in ICT and transportation at the level of the ACS, aimed at bringing our region closer together.
Mr President, this meeting is taking place against a backdrop of heightened global tension with the crises in the Ukraine and the Middle East in particular giving great cause for concern. But those problems give us an opportunity to strengthen our determination to make the Caribbean a zone of peace and to present our region as a model for harmonious relations.
The spirit of dialogue and co-operation in which we are engaging today should be an example for all to emulate. Sustained development can be attained only in an atmosphere of peace and tranquillity. That is the message that must emanate from our Summit.
I could not conclude my statement without paying tribute to the Nobel Laureate in Literature, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, that revered adopted son of Mexico whose works resonate with a vivid magical realism that captured the hearts of Latin Americans and the world. We in the Caribbean join with Latin America in mourning this great son of the continent.
We have an interesting agenda before us, and I look forward to spirited discussions between CARICOM and Mexico on the issues which will be engaging our attention.
I thank you.