23rd CARICOM Summit in Guyana--
'Balancing South with North' By Rickey Singh
Guyana Chronicle
June 24, 2002

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BRIDGETOWN---Striving for a more "healthy and productive balance" in the Caribbean's best interest of fostering good neighbourly relations between North and South America is expected to be one of the more innovative strategic issues for consideration at next week's 23rd Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Summit in Guyana.

The Guyanese Foreign Minister and former Ambassador to the United Nations, Dr Rudy Insanally, in indicating this yesterday said: "I cannot properly comment too much at this stage". But he could say that Guyana fully shares the emerging perspective of the need to balance and deepen relations with South America while maintaining good relations with "our friends and allies in North America".

The issue of evolving a more realistic and "balanced" relationship between the North and Southern countries of the Western Hemisphere is expected to be a major foreign policy matter for a caucus session of Heads of Government attending the three-day CARICOM Summit which begins in the Guyana capital, Georgetown, on July 3.

When the curtains come down on the summit on the evening of Friday, July 5, the Community leaders and some of their top advisers, among them leading officials of the Secretariats of the Caribbean Community and the Port-of-Spain-based Association of Caribbean States (ACS), will be involved in a one-day retreat with the visiting President of Brazil, Fernando Henrique Cardoso.

As Foreign Minister Insanally told this correspondent in a telephone interview from Georgetown, "In the relaxed atmosphere of the planned retreat (expected to take place in Guyana's vast interior region), "we intend to discuss the modalities of the whys and hows to place greater emphasis on our relations with our southern partners in the Western Hemisphere, aware that the Caribbean constitutes an important bridge between the two Americas..."

With the possible exception, for health reason, of the Prime Minister of Dominica, Pierre Charles, who is to host the 24th Summit, the Caribbean Community Secretariat and the host government are expecting a "full house" of leaders of CARICOM.

Among the Heads of Government expected will be the President of Haiti, Jean Bertrand Aristide, to participate in the historic ceremony of his country's access, finally, as a full-fledged partner of the almost 30-year-old and now 15-member Community that is hoping to become a Single Market and Economy by the end of 2003, if not earlier.

Of the leaders expected to address the ceremonial opening of the summit on July 3 will be the Community's newest Prime Minister, Perry Christie, the 58-year-old leader of the Progressive Liberal Party (PLP) of the Bahamas.

Bahamas' ambassador to CARICOM, Leonard Archer, chairman of the Community's mandated "Review of the Structure and Functioning of the Caribbean Community Secretariat", said yesterday that Prime Minister Christie "is very much looking forward to addressing the opening session of the summit and to share his own perspectives as a new Head of Government of the Community".

The tradition is that the newest Head of Government is always included among the speakers for the ceremonial opening of a regular CARICOM summit. Christie was elected on May 2 as the third Prime Minister since the Independence of The Bahamas.

Should he decide to attend, as the Community Secretariat expects, there is the possibility of Prime Minister Patrick Manning of Trinidad and Tobago also addressing the opening ceremony at which there will be the formal assumption of chairmanship of CARICOM by host President Bharrat Jagdeo, from the outgoing chairman, Prime Minister Said Musa of Belize.

Issues of foreign trade, aid and the tortuous experiences escalating killings and criminal violence in a number of CARICOM states, as well as an update on the CSME by Prime Minister Owen Arthur of Barbados and the latest arrangement for the creation of a Caribbean Court of Justice by Prime Minister Kenny Anthony of Saint Lucia are among the draft 10-page agenda prepared for the summit

Security and crime are also on the agenda for discussion within the context of a report from the Regional Task Force on Crime, as well as an update on West Indies cricket with arrangements on preparation for the World Cup in 2003 in South Africa.

Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, who has lead responsibility for external trade and economic negotiations, will inform the meeting of the current status and work of the Regional Negotiating Machinery and preparations for coming negotiations involving Europe and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, World Trade Organisation and the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA).

The status of historical territorial disputes between Belize and Guatemala, Guyana and Venezuela and Suriname and Guyana will also be reviewed, as well as the OECS-Venezuela ownership controversy over Bird Rock Island.