COTED must get ready to face new millennium challenges

by Wendella Davidson
Guyana Chronicle
October 10, 1999

MINISTER of Commerce, Industry and Business Development, Antigua and Barbuda, Mr Hilroy Humphreys, has cautioned that the Caribbean will be faced with some important challenges by the end of the millennium.

Addressing the Seventh Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at the CARICOM Secretariat's Headquarters, Bank of Guyana Building, in his capacity as Chairman of the proceedings, Mr Humphreys reminded his audience that the recent economic and political changes in the world have to some extent weakened the Region.

He feels Caribbean states know too often the ravages of natural catastrophes, adding that a few - Barbados, Grenada, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Guyana - are now faced with the phenomenon of "fish kill" which poses serious danger to their fishing and tourism industries.

He warned that this phenomenon could impact on other countries, since "we are all swimming in the same fish bowl" and a ripple in Barbados is also felt in Antigua and Barbuda.

Such is the nature and reality of the CARICOM archipelago, he added.

Mr Humphreys said a number of important events have occurred since the last COTED meeting, and he made special mention of the ongoing negotiations on the Lome Conventions and Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) as well as discussions to complete the revision of the Treaty of Chaguaramas.

In these areas, he said, while there has been success in some cases, in others, work is still to be completed.

Alluding to the Caribbean States collectively, Mr Humphreys remarked: "We have, as colleagues, a shared interest in regional integration for mutual prosperity and development," adding that as small economies, integration and cooperation are the surest ways in which they can face the challenges posed by the present global economic environment.

In these circumstances, he said it is imperative that the Caribbean States pool their resources and, among other things, implement the measures of Protocol II to ensure the viability of the economies, while securing markets for their products.

The Antigua/Barbuda Government Minister remarked too that his Government is supportive of CARICOM establishing a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) with Cuba.

Such an FTA would provide for Cuba's inclusion into our trading arrangements, thereby providing many opportunities for linkages in the production process and for strengthening CARICOM's negotiating position, particularly with the European Union (EU).

Mr Humphreys further advised his colleagues that, in an attempt for COTED to prove its productive capacity, they should, as a priority, include the business of services high on the agenda for the next COTED meeting.

CARICOM, he pointed out, has a comparative advantage in this area, hence the importance of adopting strategies to maximise the benefits to the economies for the sector and such discussions should start here, and later involve other interest groups and partners within the Community.

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