Deepening relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) is among Australia’s foreign policy priorities.
Addressing the 13th Meeting of CARICOM’s Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR), earlier this week in Roseau, Dominica, Australia ’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Stephen Smith said his country wants to continue to enhance its ties with CARICOM and its members. “My presence here underlines Australia’s commitment to our relationship with CARICOM,” he said, drawing attention to the fact that his was the first visit by an Australian Foreign Minister to Dominica and the first time that an Australian Foreign Minister has formally addressed a meeting of the COFCOR. He added that over the past two years, Australia has looked with “fresh eyes” at its foreign policy interests and priorities.
Australia’s development partnership with CARICOM focuses on three areas of special interest: combating the negative effects of climate change and reducing the risks posed by natural disasters; building regional economic resilience and supporting regional economic integration; and strengthening people-to-people linkages through volunteer programmes, scholarships and fellowships and other exchanges.
The new relationship between Australia and CARICOM was cemented with the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding between CARICOM and Australian Prime Minister Kevin Rudd in Port-of-Spain in November 2009, in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting. This was followed by the formal accreditation of Australia’s High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago on April 30, as Australia’s first Plenipotentiary Representative to CARICOM.