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Prime Minister, P.J. Patterson, has called on governments throughout the Americas to deepen the economic integration process and forge hemispheric, regional and sub-regional linkages that would enable small states, in particular, to withstand challenges in an increasingly globalized international economic environment.
The Prime Minister’s statement came as he addressed a special protocolary session of the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, DC on Thursday (March 9), which was convened by the Secretary General of the OAS, Jose Miguel Insulza, in recognition of Mr. Patterson’s decades of service within CARICOM, as well as his broad contribution on the hemispheric political stage.
In a wide-ranging address, which touched on several key themes, Prime Minister Patterson observed that the process of integration remained a fundamental necessity, given that despite the potential benefits of globalisation, “we have to acknowledge that the long-term survival of many of our countries continues to require adjustment to the new realities of an international environment, which has become increasingly hostile and unpredictable.”
He noted that, “notwithstanding improvements in global economic prospects and the potential benefits to be derived therefrom, we have to admit that inequities still remain, putting a number of countries at economic risk, including those in Latin America and the Caribbean.”
Mr. Patterson also expressed disappointment with the failure of the Summit of the Americas process to achieve consensus on the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), which should have been instituted at the beginning of 2005. Agreement on methods and modalities to dismantle tariffs in the negotiations on market access and agriculture, as well as defining the future framework for trade in services, have been key issues, which have bedeviled the negotiations. “We formally launched the FTAA negotiations, fully cognizant of the contribution that economic integration and trade liberalization in the Americas could make to create jobs, fight poverty and strengthen democratic governance in our Hemisphere,” the Prime Minister said.
“It is with disappointment that on the eve of my departure from office as Prime Minister of Jamaica and Chairman of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Negotiations of CARICOM, the FTAA is faltering on the rock of political will,” he lamented.
Reiterating his longstanding position that small countries should receive equitable treatment in the trade negotiations process, Mr. Patterson used the opportunity to highlight the need for “urgent and genuine engagement” of Haiti in the aftermath of its recent presidential elections, which resulted in the restoration of democratic rule to that country.
The Prime Minister insisted that, “every effort must be made to bring Haiti into full participation in the various trade negotiations in the hemisphere and (in) the World Trade Organization (WTO). In this case, there can be no question about the need for special and differential treatment and technical assistance” as Haiti dealt with its chronic and significant development challenges.
Subsequent to his address, a reception was hosted in the Prime Minister’s honour by the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, which was also attended by members of the United States House of Representatives, including Congresswoman Diane Watson of California and Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee of Texas.