Remarks by H.E. Runaldo Venetiaan, President of Suriname - 9/22/04


President of the Republic of Suriname


Inter-American Economic Council
2nd Annual Congressional Dinner with the Caribbean Community

Washington, DC - Sep 22, 2004

- Congressman Robert Ney, Co-Chair of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus
- Congressman Donald Payne Co-Chair of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus
- Members of the United States House of Representatives
- Fellow Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community
- Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean Community
- H.E. Dr. Miguel Angel Rodriguez, Secretary General of the OAS
- H.E. Edwin Carrington, Secretary General of the Caribbean Community
- Ambassador Richard Bernal of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery
- Ambassador Christopher Thomas, Chairman of the Inter-American Economic Council
- Mr. Barry Featherman, President of the Inter-American Economic Council
- Excellencies,
- Ladies and Gentlemen,

I wish to thank you, Congressmen Robert Ney and Donald Payne, for your kind invitation to me to deliver the keynote address this evening. Indeed, it is a pleasure for me to address the Members of the United States House of Representatives Congressional Caribbean Caucus. I also wish to congratulate the Inter-American Economic Council on its Caribbean Initiative, which has fashioned a forum to strengthen the relationship between the nations of the Caribbean and the United States of America. We are also quite grateful that the private sector, such as the Stanford Financial Group, has supported this kind of program, which is needed in the region.

On this occasion, it is fitting to underline the long tradition of friendship between Suriname and the United States, a tradition that has continuously been based on mutual respect for one other's positions and interests.
Suriname continues to endeavor for a productive and balanced partner relationship with the United States of America.
Suriname's economic development has strongly benefited from the activities in the bauxite industry of one of the major US companies, namely Alcoa and its subsidiary Suralco in Suriname. During World War II the bauxite industry provided significant amounts of the required bauxite for the aluminum production to build the airplanes used in the war in Europe and South East Asia. Together with the production and export of rice and shrimp, the gold mining activities, crude oil exploration, the production of alumina forms the major part of the Surinamese economy.

At the recent Caribbean Foreign and Trade Ministerial Meeting organized by the Inter-American Economic Council with Members of Congress in Miami this past May, four vital areas, concerning the relationship between the United States and the nations of the Caribbean, were jointly identified:
" the security in the Western Hemisphere, and the impact of the security measures on the already vulnerable Caribbean economies;
" the strive towards a workable FTAA and the realization of the objectives of the W.T.O;
" the fight against HIV-AIDS;
" the strengthening of multilateral organizations such as the OAS, the United Nations and their related agencies.

My Government continues to concern itself with the threat of International Terrorism. Rest assured that Suriname, together with the CARICOM sister nations, will continue to do its part in combating this threat.
In this regard, the Government of Suriname has been a strong advocate within CARICOM, the OAS and other important multilateral institutions, to act firmly on behalf of Hemispheric Security. Our nations must act together in this fight. Indeed, we must be aware that the threat of terrorism calls for collective effort and that resources must be apportioned appropriately to ensure the implementation of anti-terrorism measures.

In this regard the International Port Security Regulations have imposed financial hardship on small countries with multiple ports.
Whilst we work to bring all Caribbean ports into compliance with these mandates, we must ensure that funds are also provided to ensure effective implementation.

We recognize that the shock effect on September 11, 2001 which drove the world to immediately react to the dangers of international terrorism, proves that it is possible for the international community to unite and immediately deal with crucial global problems.

While we continue to fight international terrorism, let us also search for solutions to the other pressing matters facing the Americas and the rest of the world, and which provide the breeding ground for terrorism, such as, morally unacceptable and unfair trading rules, the gap between rich and poor, the lack of respect for each other's cultures and traditions.

Focusing on the FTAA, I would first like to state that the aims and objectives of this council demonstrate that the understanding has dawned that the strong interdependence of our economies, makes it necessary to cooperate at all levels, even between small and large economies.

The FTAA engine is driven by the need of the USA to open up markets, especially in the face of increasing competition from the EU and Japan. It is obvious that the FTAA will pose difficult choices to CARICOM, the outcomes of which could stabilize and expand or could threaten and weaken sub-regional economies.

For the Caribbean business community, it is clear that one of the most critical areas towards the FTAA is that of the negotiations on market access. Market access is a major concern for the smaller economies. Import restrictions on some goods from the Caribbean region and subsidies granted by the US Government are not helping the process at all. For example, the heavily subsidized US rice industry, gives American rice an unreasonable advantage over rice produced in Guyana and Suriname, even within the Caribbean market itself. Obviously, this is not in the spirit of free trade.

The countries of CARICOM, while supporting free trade, are also looking for an FTAA with a human face, in the spirit of Quebec.

FTAA involves the removal of tariffs and non-tariff barriers which restrict trade between countries.
Since import duties amount for much of the revenues of the CARICOM member-states,a rapid tariff reduction can be harmful to their economies. It is obvious that when CARICOM countries enter the FTAA, they will lose some of their revenues, but this loss can be offset if these countries obtain greater market access and if trade is expanded to a wider range of developed economies.

The smaller economies of the CARICOM certainly will have problems to catch up with the rest of the hemisphere in order to compete on a more level playing field, when the FTAA comes into being.

That is why CARICOM has been calling for the establishment of a Regional Integration Fund to be established under the umbrella of the FTAA, to provide assistance to the smaller economies, to help them to meet their need for human resources, technological and infrastructural development, and a more modernized and industrial base.

That is also why CARICOM strongly advocates that the FTAA includes Special and Differential treatment provisions, which will, among other measures, allow for longer periods of adjustment for the region's more vulnerable economies and sectors.

It is self evident that strong economies are underpinning factors for strong democracies, for the elimination of poverty and the reduction of crime. This would also be to the benefit of our mutual relations.

The nations of CARICOM themselves, are heading for the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) which will be in place on 1 January, 2005.

Ladies and Gentlemen,

My Government continues to work to confront the scourge of HIV/AIDS. The United States of America has undoubtedly been quite generous to countries within the developing world. However, the devastation is being felt particularly in the Caribbean, which has the second highest incidence per capita of HIV/AIDS.
Resources need to be evenly distributed and to be expanded to cover the whole Caribbean. In this respect we need a strong working partnership with the United States Government to face this health crisis throughout the Caribbean.

It is fitting that I address you on the eve of the inauguration of a new Secretary General of the Organization of American States. We look forward to the leadership of Secretary General Miguel Angel Rodriguez. In the field of Suriname's proactive involvement with the Organization of American States in particular, we are pleased that our candidate for the position of Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, Ambassador Albert Ramdin has received the unanimous support of the Members of the Caribbean Community.

Members of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus,

The friendship of the Republic of Suriname towards the United States of America is solid, as is the friendship of CARICOM countries towards the U.S.A. I once again wish to thank the Co-Chairs of this Caucus for the opportunity to address you.

Finally, I would like to reciprocate your kind invitation by inviting the Members of the Congressional Caribbean Caucus to visit Suriname. We are sure that the private sector will also once more show its wisdom and generosity by supporting this first of its kind delegation to Suriname.

It is my sincere hope that gatherings like this will add deeds to dialogue, that we will truly see and feel the need for cooperation and that we will develop structures and strategies for partnerships with depth and dignity, where the weak and the strong will live and thrive in one and the same world, in peace and prosperity.

Thank you.

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