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Mar 12, 2009

CARICOM leaders arrive in Belize to discuss E.U. and crisis

Story PictureCARICOM leaders of the fifteen member regional group meeting in Belize are on a mission to discuss and develop measures to mitigate the global financial and economic crisis, deliberate the status of trade agreements with the European Union and Canada, and continue the implementation of the Single Market and Economy. Those heavy topics will be discussed over two days of meetings, which began this morning after an opening ceremony. Kendra Griffith reports from the Radisson.

Kendra Griffith, Reporting
This morning heads of government of the CARICOM countries filed into the Caracol Room at the Radisson for the official opening of the twentieth Inter-sessional conference. And while they chatted amicably with each other before the meetings commenced, in his remarks, Secretary General Edwin Carrington spoke of the importance and seriousness of the discussions.

Edwin Carrington, Secretary General, CARICOM
“This meeting is being held at a time when the world is in the greatest crisis experienced by most of us in our lifetime. The economic and financial woes of the last ten months or so have left no country unscathed and even the most optimistic observer sees no early emergence from this predicament. Our major industry, tourism has been severely affected even in its most lucrative winter season period. This has led to negative spin off effects in related industries and activities. Our remittances are fast becoming pittances. The outcome of your deliberations here over the next two days has the potential to create a significant impact, not only throughout our community, but on the wider hemispheric and global plain.”

Current CARICOM Chair, Belize’s Prime Minister Dean Barrow, agrees that the global crisis should foster greater cooperation between the countries, but admits that is no small feat.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Chair, CARICOM
“To posit that it should act as a spur rather than a deterrent to consolidation of our CARICOM destiny is one thing, to actually manage our processes in such a way as to make the word flesh is quite another. When we do our stocktaking here in Belize, there will be much to ponder and at the heart of our deliberations, we must bear in mind what integration is designed to achieve. The politician has not yet been born that will easily embrace the prospect of relative shifts that are disadvantageous to his people, yet it is a fiction to believe that it is possible for each country will develop at an equal pace with the others. The conundrum of how to square the circle remains.”

Today, however, the Prime Minister announced that one way in which Belize intends to become more integrated into CARICOM is through the Caribbean Court of Justice.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“I commend the merit of the court as a critical linchpin of our movement and I also undertake this year to propose here at home the constitutional amendment that will allow Belize to sign on to the appellate jurisdiction.”

And as for the Single Market and Economy, implemented in 2006, Barrow says much progress has been made towards its realization and urges his fellow participants to use the conference to refocus and redouble their efforts.

Prime Minister Dean Barrow
“In addition to the continued free movement of goods, there is now the free movement of capital and services in our community. The year 2008 also saw the establishment of two key elements of the C.S.M.E., the Competition Commission and the CARICOM Development Fund. Also, the categories of the free movement of skills have been enlarged to comprise university graduated, media workers, nurses, non-graduate teachers and artisans. Regional chatter has of late become especially gloomy, journalistic predictions especially dire. The notion has even been advanced that Belize’s barrier reef may well prove to be the symbolic shores on which CARICOM’s runs aground. But reports of our death are an exaggeration. Instead, let the restorative powers of this land, the elite service agent civilization work their magic. We must come away from this meeting with a renewal of energies and a reaffirmation of purpose that our CARICOM citizens both demand and deserve.”

After the opening ceremony, the Heads of Government commenced their working sessions. Kendra Griffith reporting for News Five.

Also attending the conference is an emissary of the Nicaraguan President, Daniel Ortega, who is current chair of SICA and who will host the CARICOM leaders in May as part of the integration of the two sub-regions.

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Viewers please note: This Internet newscast is a verbatim transcript of our evening television newscast. Where speakers use Kriol, we attempt to faithfully reproduce the quotes using a standard spelling system.

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