Mr Chairman, the Hon Knowlson Gift
Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago
Other Honourable Ministers
Your Excellencies Ambassadors to the Caribbean Community
Deputy Secretary-General and Staff of the Secretariat
Ladies and Gentlemen
Today is for me a very special day. It is the first opportunity to welcome the Community’s second highest organ to the new Headquarters of the Caribbean Community Secretariat, which truly befits the Community’s highest aspirations.
I am particularly pleased that in welcoming the members of this Council that there are some among you here today who have laboured for many years in contributing to this enhancement in our circumstances. I hope you would all find some time to familiarise yourself with this new Headquarters building for which we are eternally indebted to the Government and people of Guyana.
In welcoming the members of the Council, I extend an especially warm greeting to the new chairman of Council, the Hon Knowlson Gift, the Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. I am sure, Minister, that with your wide experience and sagacity you will guide the affairs of this body and this meeting to a successful conclusion.
Our agenda today covers a variety of issues, testimony to the range of affairs over which this Council has responsibility. Perhaps the central issue at this time is the responsibility falling to this Council under Article 13 of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas for “the efficient operation and orderly development of the CSME, particularly by seeking to resolve problems arising out of its functioning taking into account the work and decisions of the COTED.
I can assure you that with the coming into being of the Single Market on 1 January involving Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, and with the indication that all other CARICOM States will soon follow suit by the end of the first quarter this year not only has the Community moved to a higher plane of integration but there will be problems enough arising out of its functioning to be resolved.
Yesterday the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), whose work and decisions this Council is charged to take into account in the discharge of that function, took note of the state of progress of the Community in this regard including the upcoming ceremony in Jamaica on the 30 January to mark the historic occasion.
Fast on the heels of that ceremony, in which your Council has a significant interest, your Council is faced with preparing the 17th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Community scheduled for Port of Spain, 9-10 February. A meeting which itself is charged with a number of weighty issues, vital to solidifying this latest advancement of the Community as well as charting the course for moving on to the Single Economy.
Today, you also have before you the task of considering and approving a budget for the CARICOM Secretariat, another key function of this Council. The recommendations of the Budget Committee which sat in this same room two days ago have been submitted to you and the Secretariat looks forward to your deliberation and approval.
As has become customary this Council will also have before it a report on the situation in Haiti.
It is clear therefore that many weighty matters engage your attention today and I therefore would not wish to delay you any further but only to wish you a Happy New Year and now invite the Chairman to call the meeting to order. I thank you for you attention.