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The pact worth some 57M Euros will see 75%-90% of it being spent on intensifying regional integration, while about 11%-14% of resources would be spent on major vulnerabilities-drug control and disaster management.
Speaking at the signing ceremony at CARICOM Headquarters, Secretary-General of CARICOM, Mr. Edward Carrington underscored the critical role still being played by the European Union (EU) in the continuing development of the Caribbean, pointing out that the overall aim of the Regional Support Strategy (RSS) is the beneficial integration of the Caribbean region into the world economy through sustainable growth, regional cohesion and stability and continued improvements in living standards.
“It is clear that this aim is very much in keeping with regional priorities, as support for regional integration will assist in the establishment of a harmonised economic space that will contribute to achieving greater competitiveness. This, will in turn make it easier for the Caribbean to engage in a structural transformation and repositioning of its economy, to enter into advantageous international trade negotiations, and ultimately to achieve the central objective of the Cotonou Agreement - that of poverty reduction,” Mr. Carrington noted.
He added: “Building upon a gradually harmonised economic space, the strengthening of trade-related capacity should enable in the Caribbean region to play a full part in and take full advantage of international trade negotiations, which involve the WTO agenda, the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) and Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations with the European Union. Further, an enhanced regional economic space gradually integrated into the world economy should be the basis for an economic repositioning of the Caribbean, enabling the region to seize new and diversified opportunities.”
According to the Secretary-General an integrated and mutually reinforcing process of support to the intensification of regional integration is the focal sector of the regional support strategy, which is expected to result in an expansion of the regional economic base to increase market opportunities, improving the attractiveness of investments and achieve greater economies of scale.
The completion and full implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) by 2005, Mr. Carrington opined, will go a long way towards offsetting the lack of competitiveness in several export sectors and give the region the impetus to ease the constraints facing small economies and markets. He pointed out too that there is already in place a Free Trade Agreement between CARICOM and the other member of CARIFORUM, the Dominican Republic underlining the intensification of the regional integration process.
In addition to providing support for increasing trade-related capacity the support strategy will give help to the fight against drugs and to improve disaster-management, which pose “serious constraints on regional economic development and political and social stability,” Mr. Carrington noted.
Head of the Delegation of the EC here, Ambassador Vincent DeVisscher said the regional strategy reflects the objectives of the Cotonou Agreement to foster the integration of the ACP countries into the world economy, particularly the reinforcement of the processes of regional integration, the enhancement of production, supply and trade capacity, and the development of a new environment to attract investment.
He urged that constructive dialogue, pragmatism and effectiveness in the implementation of the programme, become now the reference marks to achieve if the agreed objectives are to be attained and enhanced resource allocations secured.
According to Mr. De Visscher the 9th RIP proposes:
the expansion of the Caribbean market through the identification of new economic opportunities and strengthening of the position of the Caribbean in the international context.
the deepening of the integration process through the completion of the CSME, targeting a harmonised economic space in order to promote economic efficiencies, the reinforcement of international trade
the attraction of investment and the economic repositioning process that constitutes the platform from which the integration of the Caribbean into the global trading regime will be pursued.
The Commission is aware of the several external vulnerabilities that impact on the efforts by Caribbean governments to achieve economic development and reduce poverty, Mr. De Visscher observed.
“The scourge of illegal drugs poses a serious threat to regional security and governance, and can cause devastating consequences in economic activities, property and human welfare. Natural disasters, which can result in devastating economic hardships, are covered in the strategy, particularly since these normally impact disproportionately on the poor. The Regional strategy paper therefore represents a renewed effort in the joint endeavours of the Caribbean and the EU in the fight against poverty,” Mr. De Visscher declared.