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Caricom Heads welcome back Haiti, six join CSM

Caricom Heads welcome back Haiti, six join CSM

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CARICOM leaders joined to welcome Haiti back into the regional grouping while six countries of the nine-member Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS), including St. Vincent and the Grenadines, officially signed onto the CARICOM Single Market (CSM).

These were two of the milestones achieved at the recently concluded 27th meeting of Caricom Heads of Government meeting which ended yesterday Thursday 6, at the headquarters of the Eastern Caribbean Central Bank (ECCB) in Basseterre, St. Kitts.{{more}}

The four-day meeting of the 15-nation trading bloc, and Haiti, saw regional heads touching a number of issues chiefly the CSME, the OECS Economic Union, free movement of people, agriculture, energy, crime and security.

But the high point of the deliberations was the signing on to the CSM by Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Jamaica, Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad Tobago all joined on January 1.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the heads-meeting, host Prime Minister Denzil Douglas said that despite the delay, the OECS was still committed to further integration.

“Indeed, as we accelerate and deepen the integration process in the OECS, it is our aim that the OECS union would be seamlessly integrated into the CARICOM Single Market and Economy,” he said.

Douglas stressed that the OECS economic sub-union, due in July 2007, should not be seen as an attempt to subvert the CSM.

The sub-union, he noted, was crucial in assisting the smaller OECS states in what he said was “bound to be somewhat lopsided” in joining with larger nations. He said that the Regional Development Fund alone, currently set at US$120 million with a target of US$250 million, would not be sufficient to help those countries integrate with their larger neighbours.

Although this country’s Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves observed that the OECS was pioneering ahead of the CSM nations with their own integration process, which includes their own currency, the Eastern Caribbean dollar, some OECS member states are still concerned over issues relating to Alien Landholders’ Rights and the Regional Economic Development Fund going in to the signing of the CSM.

Attending the conference for the first time was Haitian President Renee Preval. He rejoins Caricom after Haiti was expelled in 2004 following the overthrow of then president Jean-Bertrand Aristide.

“During the next five years of my new mandate, I will work my hardest to contribute towards the strengthening of ties between my country and yours and I will work with you for the advent of a Caribbean which will be more brotherly, stronger and more united when faced with mutual challenges,” Preval said.

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