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Posted in: Communiques by admin | 17 February 2001 | Release Ref #: NA | 3740

    The Twelfth Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community was held at the Sherbourne Conference Centre, Barbados from 14 to16 February 2001.

    Heads of Government in attendance were: Hon. Lester Bird, Prime Minister, Antigua and Barbuda; Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Economic Affairs, Barbados; Rt. Hon. Hubert Ingraham, Prime Minister, The Bahamas; Hon. Said Musa, Prime Minister, Belize; Hon. Pierre Charles, Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Legal Affairs and Labour, Dominica; Dr. the Hon. Keith Mitchell, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security and Information, Grenada; Rt. Hon. Percival J. Patterson, Prime Minister, Jamaica; Hon. Dr. Denzil Douglas, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Development, Planning and National Security, St. Kitts and Nevis.

    Dr. the Hon. Kenny D. Anthony, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance, Economic Affairs and Information, Saint Lucia; Hon. Arnhim Eustace, Prime Minister, St. Vincent and the Grenadines; His Excellency Runaldo Ronald Venetiaan, President of the Republic of Suriname; and Hon. Basdeo Panday, Prime Minister and Minister of National Security, Trinidad and Tobago.

    The Cooperative Republic of Guyana was represented by Hon. Clement J. Rohee, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana.

    The Republic of Haiti was represented by His Excellency Jean-Bertrand Aristide.


    The Opening Ceremony featured addresses by the Prime Ministers of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Hon. Arnhim Eustace; Barbados, Rt. Hon. Owen Arthur; Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Basdeo Panday; Dominica, Hon. Pierre Charles; and CARICOM Secretary-General and Chairman of the proceedings, Mr. Edwin Carrington.

    In their remarks, the Heads of Government expressed concern at a range of issues facing the Community. These include continuing threats to the sovereignty and economic viability of states in the Region; the growing incidence of AIDS and the need for effective collective strategies both to combat its spread and to provide care for those affected; the destabilising effect of the trade and consumption of illicit drugs and the accompanying evils of money laundering and arms trafficking. The Heads of Government also emphasised the need for civil society to be included in discussions and decisions on matters relating to the Community. To this end they reiterated the importance of the Forward Together Conference to be held later this year. The Heads of Government also reaffirmed the critical importance of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and urged Member States to take necessary action to expedite its implementation.


    Ten Heads of Government signed the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Court of Justice at the Ceremonial Opening of the Conference. The historic signing marked another milestone by the Members of the Community in asserting their sovereignty.

    Heads of Government asserted that the Court is an integral component for the efficient functioning of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy and is a unique institution in the development of international law, being on the one hand a municipal court of last resort, and on the other, an international tribunal, interpreting and applying rules of international law as these relate to the Treaty of Chaguaramas.


    The Order of the Caribbean Community (OCC) was conferred on the Rt. Hon. George Price, P.C., of Belize; Sir George Alleyne, MD. F.R.C.P., F.A.C.P. (Hon), D.Sc (Hon.) of Barbados; and Dr. Slinger Francisco H.B.M., C.M.T., of Trinidad and Tobago, for their outstanding contribution to the political, social and cultural development of the Community.

    Each of the recipients in his own special sphere of work and influence, has projected the excellence of the Caribbean people unto the world scene, and forged a stronger sense of Caribbean identity both within the Community and in the diaspora. This brings to fourteen the number of distinguished Caribbean citizens who have been so honoured.


    Heads of Government considered the issue of governance and democracy in the Region. They reaffirmed their commitment to democracy and popular participation as enshrined in the Charter of Civil Society and adopted by the Conference in 1997 as well as the Kingston Declaration on Democracy and Popular Participation adopted in July 1990. They pledged to work together to maintain and strengthen the institutions and processes essential to democratic Government, and in this regard, enjoined their citizens to pursue all of their just economic, social and political objectives within the framework of the Region's deeply cherished democratic traditions.

    Heads of Government noted that elections would be held in three CARICOM countries prior to their next Meeting, the timing of two having been influenced by Community initiatives. They stressed that the Region had a long-standing tradition of respect for the will of the people, as expressed through free and fair elections on a regular basis. They were confident that this tradition would be maintained in the forthcoming processes and called on all concerned to honour this tradition and respect its results. They pledged their continued support to those processes, through the provision of election observers where requested.


    Heads of Government having considered issues relating to the finalisation of Haiti's membership of the Community agreed to issue the attached statement.


    With the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas expected to be finalized by the third quarter of 2001, Heads of Government directed that each Member State and each Ministerial Council must give priority to implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME). This was seen as being necessary to ensure that the benefits to be derived from the strengthening of the Region's production and competitiveness are fully realized. Implementation of the CSME would enable the Region to take advantage of the opportunities created by hemispheric and global liberalisation.

    Heads of Government accepted the recommendations from the Second Special Consultation on the CARICOM Single Market and Economy held in Barbados on 20 to 21 November 2000. They highlighted in particular, the measures to be implemented during 2001. Critical among these measures are the enactment of national legislation to give effect to the free movement of university graduates, artistes, sports persons, musicians and media workers and the transfer of Social Security benefits; the establishment of the programmes for the removal among Member States of restrictions on the right of establishment, the provision of services and the movement of capital; the establishment of national and regional mechanisms for the mutual recognition of qualifications and training; the establishment of the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Quality and Standards (CROSQ) and agreement on outstanding issues relating to hassle-free travel including travel documents and forms.

    Heads of Government accorded particular attention to the supporting institutional arrangements at the national and regional levels required to ensure implementation. They agreed that at the national level, Member States would establish Inter-Ministerial Consultative Committees and would encourage the establishment of business and labour advisory committees. They established a Prime-Ministerial Sub-Committee for the CSME to give impetus to its establishment and operation. They agreed that the Prime-Ministerial Sub-Committee would be supported by a Technical Advisory Council comprising members from regional institutions and civil society, private sector and labour organisations and would be serviced by an expanded and restructured Single Market and Economy Unit in the Secretariat.

    Heads of Government mandated that the public education programme for the CSME be intensified with a view to heightening the level of popular understanding of and support for the CSME throughout the entire Region.


    Heads of Government in keeping with their decision at their January 2001 Special Meeting in Montego Bay, undertook a preliminary review of the RNM, particularly in light of recent changes in its staffing and of the necessity to ensure its continued effective functioning in the face of intensified negotiations.

    They expressed their full satisfaction and reaffirmed their commitment to the RNM.

    They also commended the Chief Negotiator and his team on their sterling performance on behalf of the Region, in undertaking the first phase of the post-Lomé negotiations and in the ongoing FTAA and WTO negotiations. Heads of Government unanimously and unequivocally pledged their support for the continuation of the work of the RNM and committed themselves to its strengthening in order to better equip it to serve the interest of the region in several complex negotiations now ongoing.

    They expressed gratitude for the support given to the RNM by friendly countries and Regional and International Institutions and urged their continuing support.

    They also expressed their desire for the development of closer and more effective collaboration between the RNM, the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) and the Secretariat.

    Against this background, Heads of Government agreed on specific arrangements for the RNM's 2001-2002 budget and decided on certain staff appointments.


    Heads of Government had a full and frank exchange of views with the Director General of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) on the process of globalisation, liberalisation, the operation of the WTO and the implications for developing countries, particularly small developing countries.

    They received information from the Director General on ongoing confidence building initiatives as well as technical assistance to developing countries, particularly those with no or limited permanent representation in Geneva. The WTO Director General also reported on ongoing initiatives aimed at determining whether there was a basis for a ministerial meeting in Qatar in November 2001 to launch a new global round of trade negotiations.

    Heads of Government expressed appreciation to the Director General for his visit and candid views. They expressed the interest of the Caribbean, as a region of very small, highly open and trade dependent countries in an equitable, rule-based multilateral system. This notwithstanding, Heads expressed great disappointment with the operation of the multilateral arrangements ushered in by the Uruguay Round, which increased the imbalance and lack of consideration for the interests of developing countries as was evidenced by the processes leading up to the Seattle Ministerial Meeting and the cost of access to the dispute settlement facility. Heads also affirmed that any new round of multilateral trade negotiations should be as much about development as trade liberalisation.

    They stressed the importance of confidence building, the provision of technical assistance to enable developing countries and small countries in particular to implement their existing commitments and the overall review of the multilateral system to the creation of a climate conducive to the participation of small developing countries in future negotiations.

    Heads of Government had a full discussion with the Director General on the importance of, and the threat to the vital Regional banana industry. They highlighted the insensitivity of the multilateral system to the contraction in the industry and the deleterious impacts on their economies.


    Heads of Government considered a Report on the efforts to revise the European Union Banana Import Regime. They were extremely concerned that the European Union seemed determined to implement a "First Come, First Served" (FCFS) system of Tariff Rate Quota (TRQ) administration, although all analyses demonstrate that such a system would create great instability in the EU market for bananas.

    Heads of Government observed with alarm the fact that ACP Banana Exporting Countries could lose almost one half of their already small market share in the first year of operation of any such regime and would soon be eliminated from the market. They noted further that there is no measure in the current Commission proposal to address this situation in spite of the commitments of the EU enshrined in the Lomé Convention and currently in the Cotonou Agreement to support the continued viability of ACP banana export industries and to provide continuing outlet for ACP bananas on the Community market.

    Heads of Government recalled that the Caribbean Banana Exporting Countries have offered the Commission several proposals aimed at achieving a generally acceptable solution. They were therefore extremely disappointed that the initiatives which were in train up to January this year, to develop a historically-based TRQ system have been abandoned by the Commission and the United States Trade Representative.

    Heads of Government strongly urge the Parties to resume discussions towards achieving a fair and generally acceptable system.


    Heads of Government recognising the importance of tourism to the future economic development of the Region, unanimously accepted the proposal of the Prime Minister of Saint Lucia for the convening of a Regional Summit on Tourism. They accepted the offer of the Prime Minister of The Bahamas to host the Summit on 6 to 7 July 2001. They mandated the Secretariat to establish a broad-based planning group for the Summit comprising all the relevant stakeholders.


    Heads of Government received a report on recent developments pertaining to certain G7 related initiatives including the Financial Stability Forum (FSF); the Financial Action Task Force (FATF); and the OECD Harmful Tax Competition Initiative. These developments were considered in the context of legislative and other programmes implemented by Member States to satisfy the Financial Action Task Force criteria on money laundering and financial crime, participation in the IMF Assessment and Evaluation Programme and in the work of a Joint Working Group of OECD and non-OECD countries on Harmful Tax Competition.

    They welcomed the positive outcome of the High Level Consultation which was held in Barbados 8 to 9 January 2001 between the OECD and non-OECD countries which was a first step in establishing a genuine consultative process on this matter. In that regard, they noted that the First Meeting of the Joint Working Group established by the Barbados Meeting was held in London from 26 to 28 January 2001, creating the opportunity for non-OECD countries to provide a coordinated response to the OECD on this issue. They resolved to continue this consultative process with the expectation of a mutually agreed solution.

    Heads of Government expressed their commitment to work towards the creation of, and participation in an inclusive global tax forum where the legitimate interests of all countries and jurisdictions can be represented. They called on all countries to support this effort.

    Heads of Government expressed appreciation for the efforts of the Commonwealth Secretariat in facilitating the parties in the search for a resolution to the issues.


    Heads of Government reviewed the progress made in preparations for the Third Summit of the Americas to be held in Quebec City, 20 to 22 April 2001. They applauded Canada's leadership role in the preparatory process for the Summit and its commitment to ensure the full and effective participation of CARICOM States in the Summit process.

    They particularly welcomed the opportunity provided by the CARICOM-Canada Summit in Montego Bay to exchange views at the highest political level on ways to ensure a successful outcome of the Summit.

    Heads of Government recalled that the Summit of the Americas process was initiated to advance the prosperity, democratic values and institutions and security of the hemisphere through open markets, hemispheric integration and sustainable development in order to transform the aspirations of the peoples of the Americas into concrete realities.

    They were particularly concerned at the slow pace of implementation of previous Summit mandates and at the inadequate levels of financing to give effect to their Plans of Action.

    They called for the creation of a Special Facility within the relevant international financial institutions to facilitate the implementation of Summit mandates giving special consideration to the small and vulnerable economies of this hemisphere.


    Heads of Government considered recent developments in Belize-Guatemala relations and agreed to issue a statement which is attached.


    Heads of Government welcomed the stated commitment of the Governments of Guyana and Venezuela to continue to work towards enhancing functional cooperation between their two countries and the maintenance of a positive and amicable environment in which their bilateral relations could be further developed.

    Heads of Government were informed by Guyana of the publicly stated opposition by the Government of Venezuela to foreign investments in the Essequibo region as well as reports of the intention of Venezuela to execute an exploratory programme for hydrocarbons in an offshore area that includes part of the maritime zone of Guyana.

    Heads of Government reaffirmed their support for the maintenance of the sovereignty and territorial integrity, including the maritime zone of Guyana, and for the Good Officer process under the aegis of the United Nations Secretary-General.


    Heads of Government emphasised the critical importance of fully involving the Civil Society of the Region in the Community's decision-making process. To this effect they confirmed their intention to convene an encounter with Civil Society at the earliest possible date in 2001, building on consultations among Civil Society Groups and at the national and regional levels.


    Heads of Government expressed concern at the growing prevalence of HIV/AIDS and its impact on the social and economic development of the region. To this end, they welcomed the launching on 14 February 2001 in Barbados of the Pan-Caribbean Partnership to combat HIV/AIDS and reiterated their commitment to supporting the objectives of the Partnership.


    Heads of Government expressed their deep appreciation to the Government and people of Barbados for the excellent hospitality extended to them and their delegations during their stay.


    Heads of Government accepted the offer of The Bahamas to host the 22nd Meeting of the Conference in that country on 1 to 4 July 2001.