Trade matters with UK likely to dominate Caricom summit

Friday, June 30, 2017

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ST GEORGE'S, Grenada (CMC) — Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders will discuss future trade relations with the United Kingdom as it prepares to leave the European Union (EU) when they meet here next week for their annual summit.

Grenada's Acting Foreign Affairs Minister Nicholas Steele, briefing reporters on the July 4-7 summit here, said that trade relations between the 15-member grouping and the United Kingdom after Brexit would most likely dominate the talks here.

“How we interact with a United Kingdom that is not part of the European Union is very important, and as Caricom there is need for a united approach,” he said.

British Prime Minister Theresa May has started the process of pulling Britain out of the EU single market even as critics said the talks should be suspended because it could not be delivered by a Government “lacking in strength and stability, unclear on its objectives, unlikely to survive”.

Last July, the regional leaders began their summit in Guyana in the shadows of the vote taken by Britons to exit the 43-year-old European Union.

While the leaders made reference to the vote and urged Caribbean people not to harbour any such thought as it relates to the regional integration movement, St Lucia Prime Minister Allen Chastanet, while welcoming the opportunities Brexit — as it is popularly known — may have for the region, also noted that it has “put the survival of our integration into focus”.

Dominica's Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said that the summit provided the leaders with “a wonderful opportunity to seriously consider the effect that Britain's exit from the European Union will have on Caricom to demonstrate real leadership by showing the way forward.

Steele told reporters that there are “many treaties with the EU that will have to be re-negotiated for Caricom member states because it will not be the same common approach as exist presently.

“These treaties were EU treaties but now it we will have negotiate UK treaties,” said Steele, noting that the discussions will be led by the Caricom Office on Trade.

The summit is expected to be attended by at least 13 Caricom leaders.

Alva Browne, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Grenada, said that there will be a high representation from China, the World Bank and a special “surprise guest”, whose identity has to be concealed due to security reasons.

The Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat said that the leaders are also expected to deliberate on outstanding matters related to the implementation of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) following the comprehensive review of the CSME's performance presented to them at the last Inter-Sessional Meeting in February.

There is also expected to be an update on the preparations for CARIFESTA XIII to be staged in Barbados from the 17 to 27 of August under the theme 'Asserting our Culture, celebrating ourselves'.

The work on the Commissions on Reparations and Marijuana is also expected to come under the spotlight. So too, the progress made with implementing the specified actions, agreed a decade ago, under the 2007 Port of Spain declaration to stop the epidemic of Non-Communicable Diseases (NDCs).

Regional security issues are also expected to receive attention.

Besides these issues, the regional leaders are expected to discuss the political situation in Venezuela, where opposition protestors have been taking to the streets demanding the removal of President Nicolas Maduro.

The issue has split the 15-member grouping with St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves urging his colleagues not to fall prey to the machinations of countries that want to see the downfall of Maduro.

Steele said that, while the plenary sessions will be held at the Radisson Convention Centre on the outskirts of the capital, the regional leaders will meet on the privately owned Calivigny island which is only accessible by boat for their caucus.

The meeting here will be chaired by Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell, who is taking over the chairmanship of the regional integration movement from Guyana President David Granger.

The Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat said that the opening ceremony on July 4 will take place at the Grenada Trade Centre.

The summit will be attended by the region's two newest leaders, President Jovenel Moise of Haiti and the Bahamas Prime Minister Dr Hubert Minnis.

A highlight of the opening ceremony would be the presentation of the Triennial Award for Women to the latest recipient.

The ceremony will be addressed by Moise, Minnis, as well as President Granger, Prime Minister Mitchell, and Caricom Secretary General Irwin laRocque.

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