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Trade Ministers to engage Caricom

Trade Ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will hold discussions with the Region’s private sector on Saturday, 10 May, 2014, during the 38th Ministerial Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the Caricom Headquarters said in a statement.

COTED opens on Friday 9 May, 2014, and will focus its attention on a number of critical areas including an assessment of the state of play of the negotiations with Canada for a Trade and Development agreement; and progress of the Transportation Commission and the Commission on the Economy, and the special session with the business community.

The negotiations with Canada are at a critical juncture and decisions taken by Ministers will provide instructions to the Region’s negotiators as they enter the final phase of the negotiations which are scheduled to conclude next month.

The Transportation and Economy Commissions, established following a mandate of the 34th Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM in July 2013, have been working to urgently address air and maritime matters, and to advise on solutions to the economic challenges that currently face the Community, respectively. Both Commissions have core membership but are open to all Member States. 

The Transportation Commission, chaired by Mr. Godfred Pompey, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of National Security, Air and Seaport Development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, is honing in on the effective delivery of transportation, cost and sustainability of transportation in the Region, and the ease of travel. The Commission has held two meetings so far. Regional government-owned airlines are also contributing to the work of the Commission and have met twice. The airlines have agreed to pursue further discussions on matters such as training, ground handling and arrangements for smoother arrangements for the travelling public. 

In the discharge of its mandate, the Commission on the Economy is supported by the participation of Regional institutions such as the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) and the University of the West Indies (UWI). The Regional private sector including labour will also be invited to participate. The Commission began holding discussions in December last year under the chairmanship of  Hon. Darcy Boyce, Minister of State in the Office of the Prime Minister of Barbados, and has already presented to the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP) a preliminary report that covers fiscal sustainability including debt management, resource mobilization, private sector stimulation, and transitioning to sustainable growth. The COFAP endorsed the Preliminary Report and many of the recommendations contained therein were adopted by the 25th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Conference held two months ago. The Commission will advance its work programme with the preparation of a work plan along with timelines for the implementation of the agreed recommendations in addition to the elaboration of other elements of its terms of reference. 

The strategic direction that the Council itself should take is also a key agenda item of the two-day Ministerial Meeting. In November last year, the Council held a special session on how it could be a change driver given the current economic environment, and  the prioritization of the agenda for trade, growth and economic development.

Saturday’s interaction with the Regional business leaders was recommended during the special session on COTED’s strategic direction to guide the work of the Council in acknowledgement of the pivotal role the private sector plays in sustainable growth and development. The discussions are expected to elicit from the business community the requirements for production and trade and for stimulating an environment that is conducive to the growth of the Region’s private sector, business and trade.

Preparatory to the Ministerial Meeting on Friday and Saturday, Regional trade officials began sessions at the CARICOM Secretariat on Tuesday. Both the Officials and Ministerial meetings are being chaired for the first time by Haiti.