Heads of State and Government of the United States and the Caribbean released a Joint Statement on the conclusion of the 2007 Conference on the Caribbean. *(See below)*
A meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush was the highpoint of the historic three-day Conference, and CARICOM Heads Of Government reported a very positive and businesslike session, *”that will set in motion the Region’s quest for a more mature partnership with the United States.”*
Issues raised with the President included trade, economic growth and development, security for all and social investment. Reportedly, President Bush also emphasized trade relations, as well as matters of energy, the immigration bill and raised concerns regarding the Region’s relations with Cuba and Venezuela. *“Commitments were given on certain matters; consideration was expressed in respect of other issues on which commitments were unable to be given then and there, because some matters obviously would have to be studied,”* said the Chairman of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Dr the Hon Ralph Gonsalves, Prime Minister of St Vincent and the Grenadines.
One of those commitments was the consideration of renewing and updating trade arrangements that were currently in limbo, and modernising the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) into an arrangement that goes beyond trade. Mechanisms will now have to be pursued to carry the new multi-pronged relationship forward.
The Conference took place June 19-21, when Heads of State and Government from fourteen Member States of the Caribbean Community, policy makers, members of International Organisations and Financial Agencies, the academic community, the private sector, and people of the Caribbean and of the United States examined the growth and development of the Caribbean Community from a regional perspective.
The Heads of Government of CARICOM and the ministers also met with members of the U.S. Cabinet and members from both Houses of Congress.
The Conference was organized in collaboration with the World Bank, the OAS and the IDB, and was structured to provide opportunities for interaction Government to Government, People to People and between Governments and People in three parallel events – an Expert Forum hosted by the World Bank, a Private Sector Forum, hosted by the IADB and a Diaspora Forum hosted by the OAS. The event took place against the backdrop of the recent coming into being of CARICOM Single Market in 2006 and the positive efforts towards the creation of the framework for the Single Economy by 2008.
*1. We, the Heads of State and Government of the United States of America and of the Caribbean Community Nations of Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, meeting in Washington D.C. on June 20, 2007, reaffirm our unequivocal commitment to a secure and prosperous region and future for the benefit of all of our citizens.
2. Recalling our shared history of democracy, respect for human rights, social justice, and cultural and ethnic diversity, we highlight the value of our enduring friendship and recommit ourselves to enhancing our partnership to reinforce the development aspirations that guide our mutual priorities.
3. We pledge to continue promoting the consolidation of democratic norms, values, and institutions throughout the hemisphere and to enhance accountability and respect for individual rights.
4. We agree to take steps to expand economic opportunities for our people, to address the threats of terrorism and crime, and to provide the benefits of democracy to all members of our societies, recognizing that democracy will best flourish if our societies are stable and our economies are prosperous.
5. We recognize the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy as a critical
element of the growth and development strategy of the Caribbean Community.
6. We are determined to strengthen our existing trade arrangements. We acknowledge President Bush’s announcement to work with Congress to extend and update the Caribbean Basin Trade Promotion Act and the 1991 Trade and Investment Framework Agreement. We further commit to the harmonization of customs procedures consistent with global standards and the advancement of technical trade cooperation.
7. We reiterate our support for Caribbean efforts to expand the services sector, and encourage a focus on the international financial services sector to facilitate a competitive means of economic diversification while remaining committed to the maintenance of appropriate regulatory and supervisory practices, consistent with the highest international standards.
8. Cognizant of the spread of HIV and AIDS and the impact on the economic and social development of our people, we pledge to deepen our cooperation in health and welcome the initiative to continue PEPFAR in the Caribbean.
9. Cognizant that more than 95 percent of CARICOM’s energy needs are derived from fossil fuels, we pledge to increase cooperation in this area to achieve sustainable, secure, and affordable access to energy for all our citizens.
10. We agree to increase cooperation efforts in the field of education and workplace training. We commit to strengthen teacher training by expanding the Caribbean Centers for Excellence. We also commit to strengthen human capacity in the Caribbean to meet the demands of a 21st century employment environment through partnering with academic institutions and non-governmental groups as well as through skills training for youth via the Entra-21 program.
11. We declare our intention to negotiate an agreement on cooperation in Science and Technology including Information Communication Technologies.
12. We recommit to our ongoing efforts of cooperation in the area of disaster preparedness, mitigation, and recovery.
13. We acknowledge the multidimensional nature of the security threats and challenges faced by our countries and pledge to continue to work together in the fight against terrorism, trafficking in persons, drugs and small arms, and transnational crime.
14. We also acknowledge the successful security partnership developed to secure the CARICOM Region during its hosting of the Cricket World Cup 2007. To this end, we agree to continue strengthening the Region’s security infrastructure.
15. We recognize the need to work more closely on immigration security issues in a manner respectful of national laws and government services capacity and sensitive to the effects of human displacement. We will jointly work toward the expansion of the pilot reintegration program for deportees in Haiti to include other CARICOM member states. We will develop new ways to facilitate, coordinate, and communicate between our immigration services.
16. We are heartened by the substantial progress in Haiti made by the Government of President Preval, with the support of international partners. We recognize that Haiti will continue to require substantial regional and international support in the implementation of a consistent and long-term strategy of institution and capacity building, and pledge to work together with the three branches of the Haitian Government.
17. On the occasion of Caribbean-American Heritage Month, we pay tribute to the generations of Caribbean-Americans who have helped shape the spirit and character of the United States of America and who continue to contribute to the growth and development of the Caribbean.*