- Honorable Rishma N. Kuldipsingh, Minister of Economic Affairs, Entrepreneurship and Technological Innovation of Suriname and Chairperson of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED);
- Other Honorable Ministers and Heads of Delegations;
- Representatives of Regional Institutions;
- Distinguished Delegates;
- Ladies and Gentlemen.
On behalf of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), I congratulate the Honorable Rishma N. Kuldipsingh, Minister of Economic Affairs, Entrepreneurship and Technological Innovation of Suriname on her assumption of the Chair of this important body and extend thanks to Minister Keisel Peters of St. Vincent and the Grenadines for Chairing the successful Fifty-Sixth Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
I also recognize the work of the Senior Officials whose Report will be the basis for the Ministerial deliberations, and the teams from Member States and the Secretariat, who have all worked very hard to prepare for this Meeting.
This is an extremely busy time for the Community, with many consequential initiatives being advanced. In addition to several initiatives related to advancing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), which is the focus of the COTED’s work, the Community is very active at the national, regional and international levels, in areas such as youth and gender, climate change, and peace and security, and we continue to broaden and deepen our engagements with international partners.
These vital efforts will benefit the People of the Community in important ways. CARICOM will continue to be measured to a significant degree by its fulfilment of the goals and objectives of the CSME. The COTED has a major role to play in this regard and this is reflected by the Agenda Items for this 57th COTED.
The Conference of Heads of Government have set an ambitious goal on the key issue of Free Movement, and the Secretariat seeks to ensure that all the technical work necessary to support this goal is thoroughly and expeditiously undertaken.
Under the Chairmanship of our Member State, Barbados, (Ambassador Commissiong), the work of the Inter-Governmental Task Force (IGTF) is now underway, with a sharp focus on the Free Movement Decision. A drafting group has already begun to prepare its work. We anticipate the full support of the 57th COTED for the tasks that lie ahead.
With respect to the critical Trade in Goods Regime, the Sectoral Working Groups have made good progress in reviewing and updating the CET and Rules of Origin Regime. There has been solid leadership from Member States, strong support from the Secretariat and valuable contributions from stakeholders, especially the CARICOM Private Sector Organization Inc. (CPSO) and the West Indies Rum and Spirits Producers Association (WIRSPA).
My expectation is that this 57th COTED will give political impetus to the final stages of work that are required to strengthen these critical regimes. It is imperative that we advance the harmonization of laws relating to business entities, macroeconomic policy coordination (led by the Council for Council for Finance and Planning [COFAP]), our Community services, and industrial and agricultural policies. Critical too is finalizing the mergers and acquisitions policy. Member States gave positive reports on compliance at the 56th COTED, and we anticipate that this will continue at this 57th COTED. Compliance with the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas (RTC), and Decisions of the Conference and Councils is critical to preserving the integrity of the CSME regimes and to affirm Member States’ commitment to the RTC.
With regard to external trade, since the 56th COTED, there have been positive engagements with the US through the reactivated Trade and Investment Council, and with Canada in the Trade and Investment Dialogue that formed part of the CARICOM-Canada Summit. There are specific tasks that must be undertaken to complete the delayed negotiations with Colombia. This COTED should give specific direction on how this will be done.
At the multilateral level, CARICOM is gearing up for the 13th Ministerial Conference of the World Trade Organization (WTO) and must ensure that the Region’s interests and concerns are addressed. Ministers will be updated on the work underway and the outlook for this Ministerial, including regarding negotiations on fisheries subsidies, which remains the major multilateral negotiating issue on the WTO agenda.
The Community welcomes the announcement by the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) of its SIDS strategy which has been secured through strong leadership from CARICOM Member States, led by Barbados, with support from the Secretariat. Work is underway to finalize a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the Secretariat and UNCTAD, and further strengthen CARICOM/UNCTAD collaboration, building on the momentum of the Bridgetown Covenant.
Ladies and gentlemen, the stage is therefore set for very robust and meaningful engagement over these two days. I wish this 57th COTED every success. We depend on it.
Thank you, ladies and gentlemen.