Caricom chair calls for united position at WTO ministerial conference

ST JOHN’S, Antigua (CMC) – Grenada’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell said yesterday that he was hoping for greater collaboration between Cuba and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) as the leaders began a summit here, overshadowed by changes in the global environment.

“This sixth summit provides us with an opportunity to reaffirm our shared Caribbean identify and our commitment to South-South cooperation in the promotion and protection of our common interests,” said Mitchell, who is also the chairman of the 15-member Caricom grouping.

At the same time, he said as the World Trade Organization (WTO) gears up for its 11th ministerial conference in Argentina, “it is prudent for us to send a political signal about the need for ‘WTO flexibility’ for small states during the phase of reconstruction.

“Such flexibility would require that the WTO rules and disciplines must not stand in the way of reconstruction for affected small states and small vulnerable economies, such as those of the Caribbean.”

Mitchell said that having grappled with the trauma of post-hurricane devastation and a structural adjustment programme in Grenada, and having witnessed first-hand the scale and intensity of the destruction in Dominica, Barbuda, and other Caribbean States, “I’m clear that this ‘demand’ stands as the most significant outcome for small States from the upcoming WTO ministerial conference.

“As heads, we must all immediately instruct our delegations to work towards this ‘Outcome’ at the WTO ministerial conference. We must use the platform of our meeting today (yesterday), to clearly transmit this signal to the world,” the Caricom chairman added.

He told the Caricom-Cuba summit that it is undeniable that the region finds itself in an era of unprecedented and dynamic innovation and adaptation in science and technology and ICT.

“Indeed, science and technology and ICT rank among the central cross-cutting development themes for both Caricom and Cuba. In the context of recent development, science and technology will be need to play a central role in our making us more climate resilient.

“Accordingly, as the Caricom region and certainly for me as lead head for science and technology, we anticipate the signing of the memorandum of understanding on science and technology cooperation, between our respective States,” he said.

Mitchell, meanwhile, used the summit’s opening ceremony here to call on the United States to end the trade and economic embargo it has imposed on Havana since 1962 following the overthrow of the military dictatorship of Fulgencio Batista.

“We in Caricom remain committed and constant in our advocacy to be fully integrated into all aspects of hemispheric and international relations,” he told the audience, which included Cuba’s President Raul Castro.

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