US and Caribbean officials meet

by Rickey Singh
Barbados Nation
July 23, 1999

AN IMPORTANT meeting of senior Caribbean and American officials aimed at “clarifying issues and removing misunderstandings” between the US and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) took place in Washington yesterday to ensure good US-Caribbean relations.

The meeting was organised ahead of a planned caucus by CARICOM Foreign Ministers and US Secretary of State, Madeline Albright, possibly in September, and against the background of disagreements between the community and Washington over implementation of the 1997 Barbados Accord on partnership for prosperity and security in the Caribbean.

Heading the Caribbean’s delegation at the meeting in Washington is Antigua and Barbuda’s Trade Minister, Hilroy Humphrey. The US delegation is being led by John Hamilton, US Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary in the Bureau of Western Hemisphere Affairs.

Hamilton, who is expected to be the US new ambassador to Peru, has been integrally involved in the arrangements for implementation of the Action Plan as signed by President Bill Clinton and heads of government of the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic in Barbados in May 1997.

The Barbados Accord that was intended to herald a “new era” in Caribbean-US relations, came amid controversy and tension between the Clinton Administration and CARICOM governments over so-called Shiprider Agreements on maritime drug interdiction, and also Washington’s efforts to derail the European Union’s preferential import regime for bananas from the Caribbean under the Lomé Convention.

The main features of the Barbados Accord cover trade, development, finance and the environment and justice security.

The Caribbean has complained that while Washington seems enthusiastic in implementation of the justice and security segment of the accord, and in particular co-operation in the fight against narco-trafficking, this enthusiasm was “clearly lacking on important trade and economic issues” according to one CARICOM source.

Differences reached a critical point by the time of the CARICOM heads of government inter-sessional meeting in Suriname in March when there was a decision for CARICOM to critically review the Barbados Accord and in particular those areas pertaining to co-operation in maritime drug interdiction.

In contrast to the CARICOM position of Washington’s failure to advance progress on the Trade, Development, Finance and the Environment portion of the Barbados Accord, Washington has been insisting on its “faithful compliance”.

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