Upcoming Caricom heads meeting to focus on private sector involvement

The 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Governments of Caricom will be centred on the lack of private sector involvement, according to Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett.

At a news conference on her ministry’s 2014 plans yesterday, Rodrigues-Birkett stated that it was “shameful” that to date Caricom lacks formal involvement of the private sector when having open dialogue about trade.

She said a formal agreement had to be made and that Caricom countries had to be inclusive of private sector input as it relates to trade and development. The meeting is due to take place in St Vincent and the Grenadines later this month.

She also addressed various other areas.

With regard to the Council for Trade and Economy Development (COTED), Rodrigues-Birkett stated that Guyana’s chairing of the committee will end in June of this year and much work was still left to be done.

She also said Caricom had to actively seek consensus on how to effectively utilise its votes at the United Nations. The minister also noted that Guyana will be pushing for more inclusion within the Community of Latin American and Carib-bean States (CELAC), while acknowledging that it may take years for the Carib-bean community to achieve full inclusion.

She stated that no Caricom nation has openly vied for chairing the bloc and only recently was the notion of forming a quartet of leadership established to have more of a Caribbean influence. Guyana will remain a member of the Organisation of American States (OAS) even with its involvement in CELAC.

Rodrigues-Birkett spoke briefly about CARIBCAN and noted that the preferential programme between Caricom and Canada officially ended in December last year. She did note that “we have not received any formal notification from Canada whether tariffs will now be applied with CARIBCAN coming an end.” She, however, added that informal negotiations were ongoing and that she did not expect the status quo to change.

Meanwhile, Rodrigues-Birkett told Stabroek News that while Guyana continues to further link with various regional integration bodies, the administration was not taking any further steps to join ALBA (Bolivarian Alliance for the Peoples of Our America). In fact, Rodrigues-Birkett stated that while Guyana currently applied for observer status, there have been no discussions in relation to formally joining. The minister did say that currently Guyana was represented in multiple integration bodies and that “we want to make sure we serve those organisations the way we should.”

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