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Caricom Foreign Ministers gathered in Kingston for the 12th meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), were charged by Prime Minister the Hon. Bruce Golding to protect the region’s people by approaching international trade issues in unity and with determination.
At the opening ceremony in Kingston on Friday (May 8), the Prime Minister said he had observed a leaning towards protectionism by strong countries; and he advised, “We are challenged to do everything possible to ensure that the leaders of the major countries of this world, in seeking to fix their problems, do not make our problems any worse than they are.” He was referring to a marginalisation of offshore banking.
Mr. Golding warned that Caricom countries were no longer on the conscience of leaders of former colonial powers and that the application of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union was a necessary engagement for the region.
“Notwithstanding how intimidating the global environment is now, let us start looking at the world.We are going to benefit better from things like EPA if we approach them on a regional basis rather than each of us trying to find our own little stall in that huge market of 450 million people.”
Reminding the diplomatic gathering that competition within the region has not grown the economies, Mr Golding said that while trade within the region may well be a necessary incubator, it cannot provide sufficient substance for the level of prosperity and growth that the region requires.
Speaking of the upcoming conference on global warming in Copenhagen, Denmark the Prime Minister said that the Caribbean’s greatest livelihood must be protected. “This region has to have a clear, definitive position…We do not contribute significantly to global warming, but our livelihood depends on the contribution that other countries are making. We are a country that depends so heavily on tourism and unless we can convince people that it is not only safe and wonderful in the Caribbean, then half of our livelihood will disappear.”
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Ken Baugh has assumed the Chairmanship of CORFOR as it is Jamaica’s turn to head the Council. He replaces Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Baldwin Spencer. The meeting also addressed the persistent challenges that Haiti presents to the region; the fulfillment of the UN Millennium Development Goals to reduce poverty by 2015; application of Dominican Republic for membership in Caricom; and strategies to press for full engagement of Cuba in hemispheric affairs.