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When CARICOM meets Washington

GREATER GEORGETOWN, Guyana – Officials are now fine-tuning their slate of issues in preparation for high level talks with US President George Bush at the White House in Washington, on Tuesday, 20 June, 2007.

This summit between CARICOM Heads of State/Government is a major highlight of the three-pronged landmark Conference on the Caribbean 2007, June 19-21 in Washington, under the theme: Conference on the Caribbean: A 20/20 Vision.

During the packed three-day agenda, CARICOM Foreign Ministers will meet with the United States Secretary of State, Condoleeza Rice, Members of the Ways and Means Committee and the Sub-Committee of Western Hemisphere Affairs of the United States Congress.

These latter discussions are expected to lead to a framework cooperation arrangement that could be implemented, regardless of the composition of the executive branch of the United States Government.

Chairman of the Conference’s major organizing body – the Washington based CARICOM Caucus of Ambassadors – Ambassador Ellsworth John says, the Government to Government dialogue is “intended to establish the highest political commitment on behalf of the United States and the CARICOM member States to a consensus based program to stimulate growth, development and enhanced security in the Region.”

While it is expected that a number of the issues brought to the conference table by both parties will overlap, high on CARICOM’s agenda are issues relating to immigration; crime and security; economic trade goals; regional integration; cooperation on education initiatives; the potential for expansion of collaboration in border security; a review of energy goals; and employment and development assistance issues especially as the latter relates to Haiti.

Similarly, the US Government is expected to bring to the table a schedule of issues, which includes the promotion and strengthening of democratic institutions; issues related to economic growth and development such as the development of mechanisms to reduce trade barriers and ensure future technical dialogue; the strengthening of social capital through expanded cooperation in health care and education as a means of advancing regional prosperity as well as security and environmental issues.

The Government-to-Government meeting is considered vital in serving as a catalyst for a renewed, enlightened partnership between the US and CARICOM Member States. One of the anticipated outcomes is the institutionalisation of the process of dialogue as an ongoing mechanism to further strengthening and developing the partnership with the US in tangible and concrete ways at several levels.

This is especially crucial in the context of the advancement of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and the implications of US policy direction for regional integration. The United States is the Region’s closest developed country neighbor, its major trading partner and the home of the largest number of migrants from the Caribbean region. The policies adopted by the region could be bolstered by policies taken by the US and at the same time domestic and foreign policy direction of the US may impact the Caribbean economies.

While it is expected that the Community’s flagship – the CSME – will better equip the Community to assert itself in the global economy, its relationship with the major global partners is an important element in the achievement of the Region’s development goals.

The Conference on the Caribbean 2007 is regarded as one of the most forward-looking initiatives to emerge in CARICOM/US relationship in recent years.

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