• JIS News

    Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, has said that a main focus of his term as chairman of CARICOM’s Council for Foreign and Community Relations(COFCOR),will be the relationship between the region and North America.
    “It’s very important for us to strengthen our ties with these big countries, these big economies, especially Canada with whom we are going to start negotiations with in terms of developing a trade and development Agreement,” Dr. Baugh said.
    H added that it will also be critical, in terms of the United States, to strengthen and preserve economic ties.
    “We don’t want it to be destroyed, but to intensify the relationships with preparations for developing free trade arrangements with the United States, as well,” he told JIS news.
    Dr. Baugh was speaking with JIS News, following the opening of the 12th Meeting of the COFCOR which opened at the Hilton Hotel, New Kingston on Friday(May 8).
    Dr. Baugh said that it was important that the countries of the region consolidate to tackle the problems that threaten the unity of the region and the gains they have so far achieved. However, he said that, because of the strong comparative advantages of the region, he was confident of a successful year as chairman despite the pressing challenges.
    “We have to monitor very carefully the economic impact on institutions, our banks, employment and the well being of people. The second thing is how to consolidate what we’ve achieved as a people and to strengthen that, making sure that our institutions are preserved,” he said.
    Dr. Baugh also gave the assurance that the issue of Cuba was on the agenda for discussion, and would come up several times as they have dialogue with the Organization of American States (OAS) and the United States’ Assistant Secretary of State, Tom Shannon, who is attending the conference.
    “It is a big issue for us, but what is most important is how to nurture, handle and manage it, so we do not create difficulties. By pushing hard and being strident, we are not going to solve the problem,we are only going to make it worse. The signals are already there, if we plan it and manage it, it will happen. We’re standing by to support it, as much as we can,” he said.
    The COFCOR conference concludes Saturday (May 9) with a press Conference at the Hilton Kingston Hotel.
    Likely key issues on the agenda will include: The Global Economic Crisis, Advancing Regional Integration and Development: A Response to Global Challenges, Relations with Third countries including Canada, USA and the Dominican Republic, issues before the UN and the OAS; and Border disputes, Venezuela/Guyana, Belize/Guatemala

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