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Netherlands Antilles seeks closer ties with CARICOM

GREATER GEORGETOWN, Guyana – The Government of the Netherlands Antilles has expressed an interest in closer co-operation with the Caribbean Community through observer status in two of the ministerial councils of the Community.

This followed two days of discussions on September, 20-21 in Curacao between a team from the CARICOM Secretariat led by Secretary-General His Excellency Edwin Carrington and the Government of the Netherlands Antilles led by Prime Minister Emily de Jongh Elhage.

Substantive discussions on the issue of the observer status in the Council for Human and Social Development (COHSOD) and the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) as well as a relationship with the Council of Tax Administrators (COTA) took place during a meeting on Friday between the Secretariat team and the Netherlands Antilles Government led by Minister of Economic and Labour Affairs the Honourable Elvis Tjin A Sjoe and Secretary of State for Finance Mr Alex Rosario.

At a press conference following the meeting, the Prime Minister stressed that her government was deeply interested in the area of functional co-operation and this was emphasized by the Minister of Education and Public Health the Honourable Omayra Leeflang. Ms Leeflang said it was important that the two sides shared information in an effort to solve mutual problems.

Secretary-General Carrington told the media that the meetings in the island were fruitful and extended an invitation to the Prime Minister to visit the Secretariat to continue the discussions towards closer relations and to build on the “warm, friendly relations” engendered during the two-day visit. Mr Carrington said he had positive feelings about the future relations between the islands of the Netherlands Antilles and CARICOM and looked forward to the ideas discussed during the visit being consummated very soon.

Earlier in the day, the Secretary-General had paid a courtesy call on the Governor-General of the Netherlands Antilles His Excellency Frits Goedgedrag and he and his team had participated in a mini symposium at the Central Bank of the Netherlands Antilles entitled “CARICOM and the Netherlands Antilles: A private sector point of view for input on Government’s approach to CARICOM.”

Ms Desiree Field Ridley, CARICOM Secretariat’s Adviser Single Market and Sectoral Programmes gave the symposium participants an overview of the CARICOM Single market and Economy with an emphasis on the private sector involvement and opportunities.

This was followed up by a practical exposition of doing business in the Community by the Secretary of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) Mr Ludwig Ouenniche.

Secretary of State Rosario and Minister Tsin A Sjoe had laid out government policy towards economic and trade development stressing Curacao’s approach of open regionalism and open markets. Mr Dennis Dare, Senior Economist of the Curacao Chamber of Commerce pointed to the challenges in trading relations between the Netherlands Antilles and CARICOM. He cited transportation and non-tarriff barriers as major obstacles.

Secretary-General Carrington expanded on some of the points raise by the CARICOM team and addressed some of the concerns raised by the host country. He suggested that one way around some of the challenges was for the business sector to invest in CARICOM Member States and thereby circumvent the difficulties arising out of the rules of origin for example.

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