Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders ended their 37th summit here on Wednesday night, describing their two days of deliberations as “most successful” and outlining initiatives to push the regional integration movement forward.
CARICOM Chairman and Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said the leaders had agreed on the need for “comprehensive review” of the ten-year-old CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) that allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region.
He said that the results of the review will be considered at the Intersessional Summit, scheduled for Guyana in February next year.
“In the meantime there will be an intensified public education campaign in member states aimed at all levels of the society. The programme will highlight the benefits and provisions of the CSME,” Skerrit said, adding that the CARICOM Commission on the Economy had also reported to the leaders and “set out several recommendations aimed at fiscal sustainability, private sector stimulation, improving the business regulatory environment, moving towards sustainable growth and resource mobilization.
Skerrit told reporters the leaders were “fully committed to implementing all elements of the CSME regime as we remain convinced it is our only option to achieve sustainable growth and development”.
On the issue of security, Skerrit said that the summit had been brought up to date on major issues and agreed on ways to deepen and strengthen cooperation in this area.
“We approved a review of the CARICOM Crime and Security Strategy (CCSS) and discussed ways of ensuring that there was co-ordination between national security plans and the strategy,” Skerrit said, noting that the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security (IMPACS) continues to play an important role in the region’s efforts to address crime and security.
He said the leaders also agreed that “urgent steps should be taken for completion of a number of critical regional agreements” and have put as a priority, completing the CARICOM Arrest
“This is as essential instrument to address cross-border and we look forward to finalizing it before the end of the year,” he said.
On the issue of free movement, Skerrit said that even though the overwhelming majority of citizens were moving throughout the Community without hindrance “we do have instances of denial of entry at our ports.
“It is a matter that has to be addressed urgently as we are aware of the negative views that surface when these instances occur. We have guidance from the Caribbean Court of Justice as well as
from decisions which Conference has taken.
“We have mandated the CARICOM Secretariat to bring together the Chief Immigration Officers, CARICOM Ambassadors and other relevant officials to fashion a solution to the issue,” he said.
One of the major items discussed at the summit was Correspondent Banking Relationships (CBR) with host President David Granger telling reporters it “remains a very serious issue”.
However, he said “we must find a solution given its effect on our financial and trading systems in particular”, adding that the loss of CBRs was “severely affecting member states”.
Regional countries have warned that the termination of CBRs, which enable the provision of domestic and cross-border payments, could adversely affect their economic development and have been making representations to countries, such as the United States, in a bid to reverse that situation.
Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne, who is leading the CARICOM initiative on the matter, told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Tuesday that his committee was recommending that a global stakeholder conference be held.
“We are also looking at the possibility of engaging different advocacy groups in the United States and Britain to ensure that we get across our message effectively,” he said, while noting that various charities and foundations were also affected by the CBRs situation.
Regarding Britain’s decision to leave the European Union, Skerrit said: “We are confident that the United Kingdom and the European Union will remain strong and valued partners of the Caribbean Community.”
In terms of the United States/Cuba relationship, he said while CARICOM
was pleased with the improved
diplomatic relations between the two sides, the region remained adamant that Washington needs to lift its decades old embargo on the Communist Caribbean country.
“In that new environment in Cuba, we recognize the need to seize the trade, business and investment opportunities, including those in tourism,” Skerrit said, adding that “every effort will be made to conclude negotiations for a second protocol to the Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement to allow for it to be signed before the end of 2016”.
The Georgetown summit also ended in agreement that CARICOM would issue separate statements on the border disputes involving Belize and Guatemala and Guyana and Venezuela.
Skerrit said the meeting also discussed the issue of health in the region and endorsed the Every Caribbean Girl, Every Caribbean Woman Initiative (ECGECW) intended to address key sexual and reproductive health concerns of girls and women in the region.
“The objectives of ECGECW are to reduce teenage pregnancy, prevent cervical cancer and eliminate mother to child transmission of HIV,” Skerrit told reporters.