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Caribbean reaffirms importance of Europe, USA and Canada
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June 7 Caribbean Ministers of Foreign Affairs have reaffirmed the importance of the United States, Canada and European Union, France and Italy.

At the Eight Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) in The Bahamas, the Caribbean Community Ministers of Foreign Affairs St. Kitts Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Timothy Harris, reaffirmed the importance the region attached to its relationship with the United States.

“They underlined the necessity of ensuring that channels of communication remained open with this important hemispheric neighbour which, through the Third Border Initiative, has emphasised the interest it accords to the sub-region,” said a communiqué issued at the end of the two–day meeting.

The Foreign Ministers reiterated the value the Community places on the special relationship with Canada, and on the maintenance of their fruitful relations, through existing bilateral mechanisms.

The Ministers looked forward to their forthcoming traditional engagement with the Canadian Foreign Minister in the margins of the OAS General Assembly and to continued dialogue at the level of Heads of Government.

Caribbean ministers welcomed Canada's continued support for the reconstruction and development of Haiti.

With regards to the European Union, ministers reaffirmed the critical importance the region attaches to its relations with the nations of this Union and noted that the current negotiations between the Caribbean and the European Union for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) are presently focused on support for the strengthening of Caribbean regional integration. This phase will conclude in September 2005 with a Joint Caribbean-EU Ministerial Meeting.

Ministers emphasised that while the EPA will result in new trading arrangements, it must specifically take into account the differences in the level of development between the countries of the Caribbean and the EU and among the Caribbean countries themselves.

“The Ministers reiterated the shared commitment of the Caribbean and the EU that the EPA should be an instrument of development must find concrete expression in the provisions of the agreement,” said the communiqué.

The Caribbean Ministers of Foreign Affairs noted the recent French initiatives for rapprochement with CARICOM as demonstrated by the proposal for a cooperation framework agreement between France and CARICOM.

They welcomed the recent initiative to enhance the relationship between CARICOM and the Departments of France in the Americas (DFAs) and observed that this relationship was particularly important in light of the ongoing negotiations for a region-specific Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean and the EU.

Ministers observed that the OECS Member States and Suriname have traditionally enjoyed close, mutually beneficial relations with their neighbouring DFAs and agreed to the early establishment of a structured relationship between CARICOM and the DFAs.

The Ministers reviewed implementation of decisions taken at the Fourth UK-Caribbean Forum and the preparations for the Fifth Forum which is scheduled to take place in Barbados next year.

With regard to their relations with the UK, the Ministers noted the progress achieved in the framework of the UK-Caribbean security cooperation, the support given by the UK for HIV/AIDS, the two tourism projects and the trade and investment forum which is scheduled for 21st June 2005.

The Ministers also noted that the United Kingdom assumed the Chairmanship of the G-8 on 1st June and will preside the EU as of 1st July 2005. The usefulness of the Transmission Mechanism adopted in Georgetown at the Third Meeting of the Forum in 2002, was underlined.

The Council for Foreign and Community Relations welcomed the impending July 2005 visit of the CARICOM Secretary-General, His Excellency Dr. Edwin Carrington to Rome, which has as one of its main objectives the strengthening of relations between the Community and Italy.

In this regard, a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) will be signed, which will identify a number of areas in which the two parties seek to strengthen cooperation including science and technology, education and culture.

The MOU will formalise the amicable relations already enjoyed by CARICOM and Italy.

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