Caribbean Foreign ministers discuss several issues during Trinidad meeting

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – Caribbean Foreign Ministers have agreed to continue their relationship with Venezuela, reviewed ongoing cooperation with Mexico and the changing relationship with the European Union.

St. Kitts and Nevis’ Minister of Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Patrice Nisbett and his regional colleagues at the 16th Meeting of the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in Trinidad also discussed the Region’s relations with a number of partner countries which the Community is expected to engage at the bilateral level over the course of 2013.

Acknowledging the social, political and economic support that Venezuela has given CARICOM Member States and its peoples, Foreign Ministers underscored the importance of continuing positive relations with that country at the bilateral and the Community level.

The Council reviewed the ongoing cooperation activities with Mexico.

In preparation for coming meetings, discussions took place with regard to the agenda for the: Second CARICOM-Brazil Summit to be held in Paramaribo, Suriname; for the upcoming Fourth CARICOM-Cuba Meeting of Foreign Ministers to be held in Grenada later this year at a date to be confirmed; and for the forthcoming meeting with United States Vice President the Honourable Joe Biden later this month.

The Council considered the changing relationship between CARICOM and the European Union and emphasized the need to strengthen political dialogue between the parties.
The COFCOR acknowledged the strengthening of relations with a number of countries of South Asia and reviewed the Community’s economic and political engagement with these countries.

The Council received an update on the ongoing negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Free Trade and Development Agreement.

In discussing the Community’s role within the ACS, the Council underlined the need for continued engagement in the work of that body and highlighted the importance placed by the Region on the work of the Caribbean Sea Commission previously chaired by Barbados.

With regard to the CELAC integration process, the Council emphasized the need to ensure full participation by CARICOM Member States and the CARICOM Secretariat as that body continues to take shape and consolidate. Further the Council underscored the importance of the guidance role of the Community’s representative on the Quartet of CELAC which sets the strategic direction for the grouping.

The Council received an in-depth presentation with regard to the present situation of the Organization of American States (OAS) and underlined the importance of its activities in the area of sustainable development and capacity building in preparation for the Community’s participation in the forthcoming General Assembly on June 4-6, 2013 in Antigua, Guatemala.

Attention was also paid to the Twenty Third Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) to be held in Sri Lanka in November of this year. Member States undertook to participate fully in that meeting.

Ministers recalled the Sipopo Declaration issued at the conclusion of the Seventh Summit of Heads of State and Government of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group held in Equatorial Guinea in December 2012. With regard to the EU’s new development policy, Ministers expressed concern that the implementation of differentiation in apportioning aid would result in a significant reduction of development assistance for ACP states.

The Council discussed matters of particular relevance to the Community being considered under the aegis of the United Nations. In view of decreasing attention being paid to the peculiarities and vulnerabilities of SIDS by the international community, the Council highlighted the importance of using several coming events as platforms to highlight and advocate for the interests of SIDS. These include the coming global negotiations on the post 2015 development agenda, the commemoration in 2014 of the year of Small Island States, the, as well as the Global Conference on Small Island Developing States (SIDS) to be held in Apia, Samoa, in 2014.

In this latter regard, the Foreign Ministers committed to fully participate in the preparatory meetings, including the regional meeting to be held in Jamaica in June of this year and the inter-regional meeting in Barbados in September.

The Council engaged the Foreign Minister of the Dominican Republic, the Hon. Carlos Morales Troncoso, in discussions to enhance relations between CARICOM and that country.

Reference was made to deepening trade and economic relations and other efforts to continue the dialogue and to draw more closely together. In this regard, Minister Troncoso invited his colleague Ministers to participate in the upcoming CARIFORUM Ministerial Meeting to be held in June 2013 in Santo Domingo, the Dominican Republic.

CARICOM Foreign Ministers also engaged the Minister of Foreign Affairs of New Zealand, His Excellency Murray McCully, on bilateral and regional cooperation between New Zealand and CARICOM Member States in such key areas as renewable energy, agriculture, human resource development and disaster management. The possibilities for greater cooperation between the Pacific and the Caribbean were highlighted. The Council noted Minister McCully’s presentation of New Zealand’s candidature for a non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council for the term 2015-2016.

The Council exchanged views with the Special Envoy of the Government of Japan, the Hon. Minoru Kiuchi, Parliamentary Vice-Minister for Foreign Policy in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, on the longstanding relationship between CARICOM and Japan. They welcomed the 2014 CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year which will mark the twentieth anniversary of this relationship. Amongst issues discussed were Security Council reform and Japan’s candidature for a 2016-2017 non-permanent seat on the UN Security Council. The Council welcomed the commitment expressed by Japan to “drastically increase assistance” to the Region. It was agreed that the Sixteenth CARICOM-Japan Consultation will be convened in July 2013.

The Council reiterated the importance of having the issue of Climate Change remain on the agenda of CARICOM Meetings. The Council signaled CARICOM’s strong support for Trinidad and Tobago as it assumes the Co-Chair of the Ad Hoc Working Group on the Durban Platform for Enhanced Action (ADP), and commended the Government of Grenada for the excellent job that was done on behalf of the region in its capacity as Chair of the Alliance of Small Island Developing States (AOSIS). The Council also discussed CARICOM’s preparations for the upcoming Conference of Parties (COP)-18 (Warsaw).

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