Just under 15 leaders from the region will on Friday wrap up deliberations at the 33rd CARICOM Summit currently underway in St. Lucia.
This year’s summit was expected to focus on the way forward for the Caribbean grouping in this global economic climate.
Host Prime Minister and in-coming CARICOM Chairman Dr. Kenny Anthony, has suggested that people not feel furlong during this hard economic times. He urged his counterparts to reaffirm the common goal toward full economic union.
“Embracing the shifting winds means that we must respond to redefine our global space,” Dr. Anthony told the gathering at the opening ceremony.
He added that there was a time when the Caribbean was a trend setter in many areas including in business and urged his counterparts to consider what has to be done to return to the lead.
“We cannot remain still and expect the world to embrace us,” he said.
“We must negotiate with ourselves and determine where we want to be in the world, before negotiating with the world where they want us to be.”
He added that CARICOM’s terms of negotiations with the rest of the world must be defined by its strategic interests.
His Jamaican counterpart Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller, said CARICOM must do a better job of letting the people of the region know that it is here to serve them.
She encouraged her colleagues to speak with one voice in advancing the CARICOM agenda adding that Jamaica is committed to regional integration.
“Today in some circles, CARICOM is greeted with cynicism and it’s relevance is continuously questioned. But Jamaica does not subscribe to such views. In fact I want to underscore Jamaica’s commitment to regionalism, which is the core principle of our foreign policy and external trade policy.”
Simpson said her country would continue to “publicly reiterate the importance of the integration movement, to the attainment of our development goals and for the advancement of the region as a whole”.
CARICOM Secretary General Irwin La Roche, in addressing the opening said the integration process must move forward adding that leaders must make the concept more appealing to their countrymen.
He said he believed this meeting would help to contribute to more collective action as the secretariat moves the process forward to deeper integration.
“This is a time for more integration; for it is through acting in concert that we can both survive and prosper; and provide the people of our community with opportunities to improve their lives.”
“That is the objective that we’ve set for our selves. That is the objective that we must accomplish.”
La Roche said despite the many negative sentiments about the future of CARICOM, he wanted to assure the region that “CARICOM is not in crisis”.
The three-day conference began on Wednesday with an official ceremony at the Sandal Grande in St. Lucia, attended by delegated from around the world including Dr. Mohammed Ibn Chambas Head of the ACP, Mr. Kamalesh Sharma Commonwealth Secretary General and newly installed United States Ambassador to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Mr. Larry Palmer.©