Welcome Remarks by the Hon. Dame Billie Miller


Minister of Foreign Affairs & Foreign Trade



Inter-American Economic Council
Caribbean Trade Ministerial Meeting

Miami, Florida - May 24, 2004

- Hon. Jeb Bush
- Members of Congress
- Ministers
- President of the Inter-American Economic Council
- Assistant Secretary-General of CARICOM
- Ambassadors
- Members of the Business Community
- Government Officials
- Ladies and Gentlemen

On behalf of my Caribbean colleagues, I wish to thank the Inter-American Economic Council for organizing and graciously hosting this very important encounter with members of the United States Congressional Caribbean Caucus and the business community of the State of Florida.

For some time now the Caribbean has been seeking a greater degree of engagement with the U.S. Congress especially the Sub-Committee on Trade, the Congressional Caribbean Caucus and Congressional Black Caucus, on matters of major import to our region and, I dare say, of mutual concern to both sides.

We live in an age when the global economic landscape is undergoing fundamental change; it affects all countries - developing and developed alike. I speak of the inter-dependence of states. We no longer can choose to believe that what is happening in one part of the world does not necessarily affect us. To be frank, we cannot and ought not to consider that what happens in the Caribbean or in the United States has no bearing on each other. There is no immunity in this regard.

Today all CARICOM countries are confronted with the complex task of forging ahead with their economic development goals while at the same time seeking to grapple with the pervasive forces of globalization and trade liberalization. We are committed to both. These two goals often conflict, sometimes forcing us to choose the former over the latter.
The Caribbean finds itself in the unenviable position where it is negotiating in three separate theatres of negotiations at one and the same time.

Our special and unique situation leaves us with no alternative. We are small, open, developing economies with very limited natural resources. Our peoples expect of us that we not only provide them with hope but also create the opportunities for them to achieve a decent standard of living and a better quality of life. We want to participate meaningfully and beneficially in the new global economy.
Almost two and a half years ago, the World Trade Organization (WTO) met at Doha, Qatar, and agreed upon the Doha Development Agenda. That agenda was intended to address some of the difficulties faces by countries like ours in the Caribbean, by emphasizing the development dimension of international trade. It was precisely for this reason that WTO Ministers included on the Agenda, areas of critical importance such as special and differential treatment, small economies, and capacity building.

Special and differential treatment must be given practical expression not only in international rules and regulations, but also in the programs and policies that are adopted for developing countries. Furthermore, it must not be seen merely as giving differential time periods between developed and developing countries to implement agreements and decisions. Rather it should be used as an instrument for fostering development in the beneficiary countries and facilitating their smooth integration into the global economy. Failure to recognize special and differential treatment in its true context is to ignore the plight and fundamental constraints facing our countries, and to deny us the right to participate successfully in the new world economy.

The impasse in the WTO negotiations has created great uncertainty and anxiety on the part of many in respect of the ability of the international community to devise a multilateral trade system that is fair and that offers the opportunity for all countries, including those in the Caribbean, to participate equitably in the benefits which it provides. We urge the United States and Europe in particular to speedily resolve their differences so that we can proceed with the development round which is so critical to the Caribbean.

In our own hemisphere we too face the spectre of not only losing the vision which our Heads in December of 1994 so clearly set for our peoples in this part of the globe, but also of missing the concrete and invaluable benefits that a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) can offer us. CARICOM countries have expended a great deal of time and resources - human and financial - in the negations for the creation of the FTAA that we cannot afford to allow them to flounder on the rock of intransigence of some participating countries. We must get back to the negotiating table at which all countries can freely participate. We do not support the current situation in which some countries are invited to participate in what are being termed informal negotiations, while others are left to guess as to what is transpiring.

We attach major importance to the Hemispheric Cooperation Program (HCP) which was established to assist countries, particularly the smaller economies, in participating in the FTAA. Emphasis to date, however, has been placed on facilitating the participation of these countries in the negotiations. Little has been done in terms of assisting them with the enhancement of their capacities to benefit from the FTAA. CARICOM considers that this is an area of vital importance to us which must be addressed.

The creation of the Regional Integration Fund or some similar facility to support adjustment for smaller economies in the FTAA is necessary. Without such we do not believe that our countries will be able to capitalize on the benefits to be derived from participation in the FTAA. Unfortunately, not all countries support the idea of the creation of such a mechanism. We need the active support of all countries, especially the United States and Canada. This is very important to us.

In the Caribbean we are forging ahead with the implementation of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME). We believe that the CSME is critical to our regional development thrust. It offers the peoples of the region a realistic and viable option by which to achieve sustainable development. It represents the most effective means by which the individual regional economies can be successfully integrated into the proposed new hemispheric economy and the evolving global economic system on terms that will enable them to minimize the costs and dislocations that ensue from that integration, while maximizing the potential benefits. The CSME also offers a wider field of opportunity for growth and expansion of businesses of all description, across all sectors, and the potential to benefit from greater economies of scale.

We believe that there is scope for the U.S. and CARICOM to actively cooperate in making the CSME a reality. In this regard, I must refer to the Third Border Initiative. This U.S. initiative comprises a range of development-based programs in various areas of critical importance to the Caribbean region. However, it seems to be suffering from the lack of adequate funding to implement the programs in the respective areas. We must not allow this opportunity to assist the Caribbean in its development efforts to come to naught.

There are some new international trends which are causing us concern. These include the shifting of major responsibility for development to developing states; increasing transnational criminal activities; the abandonment of both multilateralism and bilateralism for unilateralism; and the steady emergence of new non-tariff trade barriers taking the form of new national security measures.

While we fully recognize that the international environment is rapidly changing and that new and non-traditional threats to our security are confronting us, we must be careful, in our national responses to these threats, not to create barriers to legitimate international trade, particularly the trade of developing countries. Non traditional threats to the security of the Caribbean include HIV/AIDS, transnational crime, international terrorism, and natural disasters. I believe that these are challenges which national Governments alone cannot hope to effectively eliminate. It is only through international cooperation and a sharing of balanced responsibilities that we will be able to devise effective international strategies to counter these phenomena.

This encounter permits us to initiate a constructive dialogue on a number of issues of mutual concern. We should not allow this opportunity to pass us by. Let us seek to make the best use of it. History will not be kind to us if we do otherwise.

Ladies and Gentlemen, I thank you.

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