NASSAU, Bahamas, May 7, CMC – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Foreign Ministers began a two day meeting here Monday amid calls for closer unity in tackling the various global issues confronting the 15-member grouping.
Bahamas Foreign Affairs Minister Darren Allan Henefield told the opening ceremony that the 21st meeting of the Council for Foreign and Commonwealth relations (COFCOR) was taking place at a time “when the urgency of our call to solidarity as a Caribbean Community, some near 45 years ago, could not be more critical.
“Our inchoative objectives, “to encourage economic integration and cooperation; to even-handedly share therefrom; and to coordinate foreign policy” in the interest of the collective, are as urgent today as they were at Chaguaramas in 1973.”
Henefield said even though, Caribbean countries will not always agree, “it is incumbent upon us as foreign ministers and ambassadors, who invariably set the tone and tenor of the foreign policies of our respective nations and our region, to remain cognisant of our unspoken commitment to be our brothers’ keepers.
“And so, during those most infrequent and odd occasions, then, when our collective and individual goals misalign, let us always remember a sage saying I have come to love, which opines, “alone I am just a voice, but together, we are a force,” he told the meeting.
The Bahamas Foreign Minister said that there were a number of issues that had to be discussed over the next two days, including the region’s position regarding the upcoming negotiations between the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group and the European Union for a successor accord to the Cotonou Agreement that expires in 2020.
“Therefore, we must engage in meaningful discourse that will inform our negotiations on a successor agreement,” he added.
Henefield said that despite the region’s “best collective and individual Sisyphean efforts, we continue to struggle under the spectre of being named and shamed as uncooperative tax jurisdictions by the European Union and OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development).
“It is pleasing that member countries of both of these entities are here for the next two-days, so that we might have mutually beneficial discussions toward addressing our concerns relative good tax governance, whilst appreciating the sovereign right of States to determine their tax policies.
“In this same vein, we must address the troubling issues associated with de-risking and correspondent banking,” he added.
In his address, CARICOM Secretary General Irwin LaRocque,said there was “ample evidence” to prove the Community benefitted when acting in concert on the international stage.
“What we do as a Community continues to make a difference. Just recently, we were successful in pressing the case of the undocumented British citizens of Caribbean descent long resident in the United Kingdom (the Windrush Generation).
“We have brought global attention to issues of non-communicable diseases, graduation from access to concessional financing, climate change and the vulnerability of Small States to name just a few,” he said.