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Posted in: Statements from CARICOM Meetings by admin | 09 October 2009 | Release Ref #: NA | 2496

    Mr. Chairman
    Honourable Ministers
    Distinguished Delegates
    Assistant Secretaries-General, Director-General and other Staff of the Secretariat
    Representatives of the Media
    Ladies and Gentlemen

    It is a pleasure for me as Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community to join the Honourable Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados in welcoming you all and to make the following brief remarks at the opening of this highly significant Twenty-Eighth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of the Caribbean Community.

    I say highly significant even before the deliberations begin. This is due primarily to the fact that at least two of the seven substantive items on your agenda today have the potential to significantly influence the future path of our Community depending on the recommendations and decisions that you make.

    In this regard I have every confidence, however, that your deliberations will be well guided by the report put before you following the hard work of our officials on Monday and Tuesday. I wish to express our gratitude and appreciation for their work.

    I also wish to extend to the Government and people of Barbados our thanks and appreciation for their generosity in providing such comfortable arrangements for the conduct of this meeting.

    Honourable Ministers, today you have before you a most important report, the Audit of the CARICOM Single Market. This audit was undertaken by the Secretariat at the request of the Conference of Heads of Government at their 29th Meeting at St John’s, Antigua and Barbuda in July 2008. The audit involves an appraisal of the state of implementation of the Single Market. At their Thirtieth Meeting of the Conference last July, Heads of Government decided that the Audit should be considered by the COTED prior to its consideration by a Convocation which is scheduled to commence tomorrow. Herein lies your mandate.

    The CARICOM Single Market has been in operation for close to four years now and this thorough and detailed assessment of where we are in its implementation should provide the type of information needed to guide and shape the future of the Single Market. It should also provide some direction to the work to establish the Single Economy. Honourable Ministers, you therefore have a heavy responsibility as you deliberate over the information that this Audit provides. The Heads of Government await your considered views on this matter.

    Ministers, you also have the responsibility today to determine the future operations of this Council in relation to certain of its established procedures. In this regard, you have certain guidance from the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ). The Court, in delivering its judgment on 10th August in the case of Trinidad Cement Limited (TCL) versus the Caribbean Community, while finding no illegality regarding the processes, nevertheless pointed to certain aspects of the established practice in approving suspensions of the Common External Tariff (CET) by the COTED and the Secretary-General, which must be improved. In direct response to the views set out in the judgment, certain proposals are before you.

    Indeed, that judgment signalled the need for this Council and possibly all the Community’s Councils, to take a new look at their current operational procedures. We are therefore in somewhat of a new era given the legal implications for actions and decisions taken by our Councils – and even by the Secretary-General. In a society which subscribes to the rule of law, this is as it should be.

    Ladies and Gentlemen, today’s session will not only deal with domestic matters. Our Community is preparing for negotiations with Canada for a Trade and Development Agreement. The timetable for those negotiations was set in Port of Spain last month with a meeting between both parties at the Ministerial level. In moving forward, in keeping with the decision of the Heads of Government regarding the finalisation of the proposal for the CARICOM College of Negotiators, the Director-General of the Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN) will today submit the list of CARICOM negotiators for your approval.

    Permit me at this juncture, to welcome to her first meeting of the Council in her new post, the Director General of the OTN, Her Excellency Ambassador Gail Mathurin. The Director-General is no stranger to this or any other Council of the Community, having served her country, Jamaica, in various relevant capacities. We all look forward to her using that wide experience to enhance the capability of the Community in the area of trade negotiations. Welcome Excellency.

    And even as the Community engages Canada, discussions at the level of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) are also on the immediate horizon. Although the Ministerial Conference scheduled for 30th November is not expected to be a negotiation session, it offers a platform for Caribbean countries to articulate concerns and positions that are germane to the Region’s interests. The COTED will be expected to consider at this meeting a strategy for the Region’s approach at this meeting to be held in Geneva, Switzerland.

    Honourable Ministers it is clear that there are weighty matters for you to consider today, and with that in mind it demands of us to ensure that at the end of the day, the decisions and recommendations made are such, that they will direct the Community onto a path that is highly beneficial to the people of our Caribbean Community.

    I thank you.