MEXICO – The Honourable Roosevelt Skerrit, Chairman of the conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean community (CARICOM) and Prime Minister of Dominica, gave the opening remarks at the first CARICOM-Mexico summit, on Sunday February 21st in Cancun, Mexico:
Let me first of all take this opportunity on behalf of the Heads of Government and other delegates of CARICOM to express our sincere appreciation to His Excellency Felipe Calderon for the warm, Caribbean welcome that we have received here in Cancun. I have the edge over my fellow CARICOM colleagues having arrived here a few days earlier than they did, and have therefore enjoyed an extra serving of Mexican hospitality and warmth. The cordiality that has been extended to us, and the excellent arrangements which have been put in place augur well for the successful convening of today’s CARICOM-Mexico Summit which, I have no doubt, will lead to a further strengthening of the already close ties between CARICOM and Mexico, given the fruitful discussions which I anticipate.
While there have been several CARICOM-Mexico encounters in the past, I feel particularly privileged to be in the Chair of CARICOM at this inaugural meeting of Heads of Government and State of the Caribbean Community and Mexico. That this is an inaugural meeting is quite surprising given our long years of co-operation and the fact that one of our Member States, Belize, shares a border with your country. I have no doubt, however, that this will be the first of many such future encounters, as what we are witnessing here today is the result of an expressed intent to deepen and intensify the goodwill, friendship and spirit of cooperation that have characterized our relationship over the past 35 years.
In 1974 Mexico, in true pioneering spirit, became the first country to establish a Joint Commission with CARICOM – this was a historic and deeply appreciated achievement. The Agreement establishing that Joint Commission heralded the beginning of a mutually beneficial relationship which has manifested itself over the years in a number of ways. Though at different stages of development, our co-existence in the same hemisphere, where we share the same Caribbean Sea means that, our needs, interests and challenges are very similar. It is this mutual understanding that has prompted Mexico to seek a partnership with CARICOM, offering technical cooperation in a number of spheres, including research and development, human resource development and institutional building.
This longstanding partnership recently received a boost when, a few months ago in Mexico City, our countries, at the Fifth Meeting of the Joint Commission, through our officials, signed a Final Act expressing our commitment to fostering cooperation in a broad range of areas, including trade and investment, air and maritime transportation, financial services, security, health, energy and climate change among others.
I note that in an earlier version of the Programme which will guide our discussions today, we spoke of a “road to strategic partnership”. This has been amended to a debate on “Common Challenges”. I firmly believe that both terms are apt. As developing countries and small vulnerable economies, we find ourselves caught in a turbulent era battered by a series of hard-hitting economic punches and a multitude of fast curveballs in the environmental and social arenas. The economic foundation has shifted unexpectedly and swiftly beneath us, creating financial shocks and instability which have had varying degrees of impact on each and every one of us. It is an environment which calls for innovation, creativity and a fresh approach to strategic thinking and which demands a renewed thrust, focus and energy in collaborative efforts to combat and minimize our vulnerability to these factors. Indeed Mr. President, it obliges us to forge a new and dynamic level of “strategic partnership” that will compound our individual efforts in regional and international fora to address these “common challenges”.
The issues which both Mexico and CARICOM have put on the table for discussion at our First Summit address some of these challenges. First and foremost on the agenda is Haiti, and I know I speak for all the Community in expressing my gratitude to Mexico for according a discussion on Haiti a central position on today’s Agenda. CARICOM Is steadfastly committed to working alongside our Member State, Haiti, an integral part of our family, to ensure that the assistance which is rendered to that nation in the aftermath of the tragic and devastating effects of the January 12 earthquake goes beyond immediate relief efforts. It must focus on facilitating the medium and long term recovery, reconstruction and development of that country in a sustainable manner. This catastrophe must be seen as an opportunity to bring about the renaissance of Haiti and not simply to bring it to where it was before this disaster struck.
We are deeply appreciative of the long-standing support given to Haiti by Mexico and are pleased to take this opportunity to partner with Mexico to explore collaborative efforts to jointly increase that support through measures outlined in the Declaration on Haiti which we will adopt later today.
Our Agenda will also focus on trade and development and in this regard, I am pleased to see that the commercial activity between our countries has been on the increase. Mexico will no doubt be aware of the efforts which the Caribbean Community has been making with regard to the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), the flagship of our regional integration movement, which is intended to provide the springboard to facilitate CARICOM’s integration into the hemispheric and global environment through more competitive production thereby enhancing our trading relations. In our discussions today, we hope to explore the opportunities created by the CSME which could boost our trading and investment links with Mexico.
We will also discuss Climate Change, an issue which, as the recent Copenhagen meeting showed, is of tremendous importance to all countries. We recognize the efforts which Mexico has been making at the global level, and note with interest, its initiative for the establishment of a Green Fund. CARICOM looks forward to further dialogue on the proposal. It is very significant that Mexico will host the 16th Conference of the Parties of the Convention (COP16) in November 2010. Our region has a vested interest in the success of COP 16 and we must use this opportunity to ensure strong collaboration among Caribbean countries as the host region, to ensure that the agreement adopted in that forum is comprehensive, inclusive and responsive to the particular needs of our nations.
My colleagues will address some of the other issues which are of extreme importance to CARICOM and for which there is much scope for collaboration with Mexico, including tourism and energy security. I will leave any further elaboration on such issues to the time allotted on the Agenda for their discussion.
Mr. President, Colleagues, we have in front of us a substantive agenda and I look forward not only to fruitful discussions, but to the undertaking of concrete decisions and commitments with our friend and partner, Mexico, which will shape and guide the future relationship between us.
In closing, I once again thank Mexico for its foresight in facilitating this encounter and I look forward to a very productive Summit which will serve as a landmark in the CARICOM-Mexico relationship.