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Foreign policy tops agenda at Caricom talks
CASTRIES—Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders meet today in St Lucia for their annual summit, with foreign policy co-ordination topping the agenda for their three-day deliberations. Host Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony, whose St Lucia Labour Party (SLP) won the November 2011 general election, will take over the chairmanship of the 15-member regional integration movement from Suriname’s President Desi Bouterse for the next six months.
He has already made it known that the development of a foreign policy is something that he will be leading in terms of his chairmanship. A statement issued by the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat said that the leaders will be examining the thrust of the community’s foreign policy approach given the ongoing changes in global political and economic circumstances.
“These changes pose challenges to the continuing development of the community as well as for the practice of the community’s external and political relations. However, they also create opportunities that can be exploited to the benefit of the community,” it said.
The Secretary General of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping, Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas, along with his counterparts from the Commonwealth Secretariat Kamalesh Sharma and the Organisation of American States (OAS), José Miguel Insulza, will meet with the leaders in the northern town of Gros Islet.
Veteran journalist Rickey Singh, who writes extensively on Caricom, said that Chambas’ visit should provide the regional leaders with a “critical assessment” of the changing priorities by the European Union, currently in the throes of an economic crisis, that could negatively impact the Caribbean.
But last month, the EU assured the ACP countries that it would not reduce its level of assistance to them despite the ongoing Eurozone economic crisis and fears by the developing countries of a loss in access to European markets after 2014. “It is fair to say that the European Union is experiencing an unprecedented economic and financial crisis. Nevertheless, I am glad to underline that the EU has maintained its position as the biggest global donor for official development assistance,” President of the European Council, Christian Friis Bach, told the 37th session of the Joint ACP-EU Council of Ministers meeting in Vanuatu.
However, Bach also made it clear that Europe was developing a new paradigm as outlined in the EU document titled “Increasing the Impact of EU Development Policy: An Agenda for Change” which sets out new directions on how to better address new challenges to development co-operation and deliver greater impact.
Trade matters among the 15-member grouping are also expected to feature at the summit here with Jamaica recently raising again the issue of unfair subsidies to Trinidad and Tobago manufacturers. That country’s opposition spokesman on industry Karl Samuda told Parliament recently that Kingston isn’t really benefiting from Caricom and urged that a decision about leaving the bloc be made in the near future.
But Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque, who will be attending his first full-fledged summit since his appointment last August, said at the end of his visit to Jamaica last week that the single most important reason for keeping Caricom alive is to serve the development of the region.
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