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September 13, 2013

31st Meeting of CARICOM Council of Trade and Economic Development

22-Jan-2012_lg

The Seventh (7th) UK-CARICOM Forum was held in Grenada over the weekend of January 20th, 2012 under the theme ‘Sustainable Growth towards Prosperity’ organized around the broad themes of Economic Resilience, Security and the Environment. This bi-annual meeting was co-chaired by the Hon. Sam Condor, Foreign Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis and Chairman of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) and the Rt. Hon. William Hague, Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs in the United Kingdom.

In his remarks at the Opening Ceremony, Ambassador Irwin Larocque touched on areas of critical importance to the region. It was highlighted that the Caribbean region being the first region to conclude a comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) but ‘the rest test of this success is to be able to take full advantage of the opportunities which the EPA provides, especially in the areas of services, cultural industries and attracting investments.’ He acknowledged the support provided by DFID but stated ‘the reality is that it will take a sustained effort to address the magnitude of the capacity constraints that we face.’

In the Opening Plenary, Minister Condor stated that he ‘welcomes the opportunity that this Forum presents to discuss, solutions, cooperation and partnership’ and is heartened by the UK Foreign Minister’s determination to re-invigorate the UK-Caribbean relationship at these times of unprecedented challenges. He reiterated that ‘we (must) promote stronger relationships and that we strategically focus on mitigating against insidious global challenges with which we are faced’, highlighting the need for preparation to engage with Member States within the regional and international Integration systems to provide new opportunities and facilitate ‘greater access to the resources needed for implementing national policies and meeting international obligations.’.

In this remarks, the Secretary of State for Foreign and Commonwealth Affairs stated that the UK are seeking cooperation in four broad areas, mainly prosperity to seeking economic success through creation of ‘new opportunities for trade, investment and innovation in our respective economies.’ Minister Hague also noted that answer to the current world economic problems is increased trade and lower barrier to trade as well as tackling issues that deter investment, such as corruption and human right issues.

It was noted that the UK is one of the biggest trade investment partners in the region, there was a commitment made to increase its development programme assistance to 75 million pounds over a four year period as well as build business links, taking full advantage of the EPA and its greater access for Caribbean business into the European market.

In attendance was Prime Minister Dr. Hon. Baldwin Spencer, who expressed his satisfaction of the outcome of the Forum stating that ‘the two-day meeting highlighted the importance that both entities place on each other’s development and I believe that this weekend’s meeting has further strengthened our resolve to work together at the highest levels.’

At the conclusion of the Forum, a 31-point Action Plan was presented highlighting the continued commitment, among other things,

  • to explore all avenues, including the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, to improve access for Caribbean exports of goods and services, via policy frameworks. These would include taking concrete steps to, inter alia, attain international standards, reduce bureaucracy, facilitate business travel, and increase levels of innovation;
  • to promote the development of the services sector through increased facilitate of services providers, consumers and cooperation among public and private sector partners, including Business Support Organisations, recognizing the fundamental importance of growth in this sector for the social and economic development of both the United Kingdom and the Caribbean;
  • to continue to build the capacity and enhance the competitiveness of small and medium-sized enterprises;
  • to work to stimulate improvement in the investment climate, with attention to the regulatory framework and, through reform, to stimulate greater competition in order to attract greater levels of both domestic and foreign investment.

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