CARICOM foreign ministers to meet with UK counterpart in London

GEORGETOWN, Guyana — The foreign ministers of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Britain’s foreign secretary will participate in the eighth UK-Caribbean Forum on 16-17 June in London.

The biennial forum aims to strengthen further the special relationship between the UK and the Caribbean and will provide a platform for the ministers to discuss key foreign policy issues. It will also seek agreement on a joint action plan to help promote prosperity in priority sectors in the region and bolster the partnership on security issues.

Energy, education and trade and investment are among the priority areas down for discussion during the forum. Prior to the forum, UK Prime Minister David Cameron will receive the CARICOM foreign ministers at his official residence and later during their stay they will have sessions with the Caribbean All Party British Parliamentary Group and the Caribbean Diaspora in the UK.

This engagement with the UK is in keeping with the Community’s strategy of maintaining strong links with traditional partners while forging new relationships as the Community seeks to strategically reposition itself as it develops its strategic plan, which will be tabled before heads of government at their meeting in July in Antigua and Barbuda.

Foreign ministers sitting as the Council for Foreign and Community Relations (COFCOR) make an annual assessment of the evolving global situation and take steps to place the Community in an advantageous position in that context.

As the chair of COFCOR, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, minister of foreign affairs of Guyana, said at the opening of the Council’s recent meeting in Guyana, “We have sought to strengthen our relations with our traditional partners, and have equally pursued the cultivation of new alliances. It is in this context that we welcome our interaction during this meeting with the foreign ministers of Brazil, Ecuador, New Zealand and Spain with the aim of expanding our dialogue and cooperation.”

This was furthered elaborated by CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque, who stated, “In view of the rapidly evolving international geopolitical situation, CARICOM has sought to re-orient its external relations to take account of the dynamics on the global and hemispheric stage. The Community has taken into account the narrowing of the interests of its traditional partners in their relations with us. We are therefore actively seeking to widen our own geopolitical space by establishing links with an array of non-traditional partners and forming strategic alliances where there is a convergence of interests.”

He further stated: “Already, we are transforming our relationship with Latin America as we have come together bilaterally, collectively and institutionally. The Community’s relations with individual Latin American states such as Brazil, Chile and Mexico have been strengthened. In late April the Community held its Third Summit meeting with Mexico and looks forward to the proposed Summit with Brazil. On my recent visit to Chile, Her Excellency President Bachelet assured me of her country’s desire to strengthen its co-operation with the Community.”

The traditional retreat during COFCOR took place on the theme “CARICOM Foreign Policy in the Changing Global Environment”. Their deliberations benefitted from the perspectives of three Caribbean experts in foreign policy, academia and economics — Professor Vaughn Lewis, Professor Mark Kirton and Dr Justin Ram respectively, as well as from the CARICOM Secretariat.

The experts shared with the ministers their views and insights based on this theme. The respective presentations touched on the present nature of the global political and economic environment as it moved from “two worlds to many political worlds and one world economy”, on the challenges and opportunities for Caribbean Latin-American relations in the changing 21st century environment, and on an analysis of the economic and social challenges facing the Caribbean and impeding its development.

They collectively painted a picture of the environment in which the Community operates, the link between economic interests and foreign policy and made a number of geopolitical and geo-economic policy recommendations to address the many challenges identified. Ministers agreed that arising from the presentations and their ensuing deliberations they would pursue the formulation of a strategy paper for the attention of heads of government at their meeting in Antigua and Barbuda.

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