CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) The Twenty-Third Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) was held on 17 March 2016 in Guyana, under the chairmanship of the Republic of Haiti. The Ministers had a comprehensive and constructive exchange of views on a wide range of matters of shared interest which are high on the Council’s policy agenda, with a view to advancing coordinated action on a range of policy objectives.
The Ministers discussed certain challenges in programme implementation of the 10th European Development Fund (EDF) Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme (CRIP) and they endorsed the remedial action being taken. The status of the 11th EDF CRIP was also reviewed. It was recalled that the 11th EDF CRIP was signed between CARIFORUM and the EU in Brussels on 11 June 2015 and that the programming process is in its early stages. The Meeting highlighted the successful conclusion of the agreement to the value of €346 million. The 11th EDF CRIP makes provisions as follows: Regional Economic Cooperation and Integration, €102.0 million; Climate Change, Disaster Management, Environment and Sustainable Energy, €61.5 million; Crime and Security, €44.0 million; Caribbean Investment Facility, €135.0 million; Technical Cooperation Facility, €3.5 million. Having reviewed key developments since the signature of the 11th EDF CRIP, the Ministers provided requisite political/policy guidance and direction.
Developments in relation to the implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), including the first Joint CARIFORUM-EU Five Year Review of the Agreement, were also reviewed by the Ministers. They noted that the Review concluded that the Region had as yet to meaningfully reap the potential benefits of the Agreement. They underscored that, for CARIFORUM, the EPA is a source of mixed feelings. The commonly held view was that CARIFORUM committed itself and signed a comprehensive EPA, yet it has not “harvested the windfalls” which seemed to have been held out as reward for early signature of the Agreement. In further reviewing the state-of-play of EPA implementation, the Ministers accorded high priority to wide-ranging technical work and tasked officials to follow up accordingly.
The Ministers expressed their deep concern that recent developments on taxation in the EU have the potential to negatively impact the economies of a number of CARIFORUM States. They took note that CARIFORUM and EU senior officials held a Political Dialogue Meeting in Guyana on 15 March 2016, at which the EU provided an update on the Commission of the European Union’s recent Communication on an External Strategy for Effective Taxation as Part of its Anti-Tax Avoidance Package. The Ministers welcomed the agreement arrived at in the Political Dialogue Meeting for the two regions to discuss a range of issues affecting the financial services sector, including taxation and correspondent banking, within the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Working Group on the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Partnership Strategy. They hailed the approach agreed to at the Political Dialogue Meeting to utilize the said Working Group as a forum to, in part, exchange information and explore what actions can be carried out on this matter to avoid negative repercussions in CARIFORUM States.
The future of the ACP and ACP/EU relations also came up for detailed discussion. The Ministers recalled that the ongoing assessment of the ACP has been precipitated by the impending expiration of the current legally-binding framework for the EU’s trade, political dialogue and development cooperation relations with the 78 country strong ACP Group, the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement or the “Cotonou Agreement”. It was noted that the exercise is geared towards an examination of the renewal, transformation and strategic change of the ACP Group. In this regard, the ACP Group is giving consideration to its own future.
The Ministers noted that the final report of the Eminent Persons’ Group (EPG)—which provides guidance on and concrete recommendations for the future of the ACP—would be under consideration at the 8th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government to be held in Port Moresby, Papua New Guinea on 30 May to 1 June 2016. Accordingly, the Ministers reviewed the options for the future of the ACP which would be most advantageous to CARIFORUM and mandated the convening of a CARIFORUM Meeting on the Future of the ACP preparatory to the 8th Summit of ACP Heads of State and Government. They agreed that the summary document arising from the said Meeting would be utilized to assist CARIFORUM States in their preparation for and participation in the Summit.
The Ministers also received a report on the outcomes of the aforementioned Political Dialogue Meeting. They welcomed the productive and wide-ranging exchanges that took place in a number of areas pertinent to the two regions’ Partnership. They particularly welcomed the agreement arrived at therein to convene the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Working Group on the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Partnership Strategy, with a view to keeping the Strategy under continuous review.
Reports were also received from the two CARIFORUM institutions, the Caribbean Export Development Agency and the Caribbean Regional Information and Translation Institute. The Ministers commended the work of the respective institutions and their contribution to regional cooperation and integration, but expressed concern that the current financial challenges experienced could undermine their important work. The Ministers encouraged States to redouble their efforts to provide requisite support to the institutions.
The Ministerial Meeting got underway with an opening ceremony, which featured presentations from: the Hon. Jean Max Bellerive, the Special Envoy of the President of the Republic of Haiti and Chairman of the Twenty-Third Meeting of the Council of Ministers of CARIFORUM (Haiti is the current Chair of CARIFORUM); the Hon. Carl Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of Guyana (Guyana is the immediate past Chair of CARIFORUM); and Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General of CARIFORUM.
CARIFORUM refers to the Caribbean Forum of ACP Group of States which are signatories of the Georgetown Agreement. This Agreement was signed in 1975, and it created the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP). The grouping is composed of 79 African, Caribbean and Pacific states.
All Participating States in CARIFORUM, with the exception of Cuba, are signatories to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement or “Cotonou Agreement” and the EPA, respectively.
The CARIFORUM Members are: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
CARIFORUM was established in the early 1990s, and its functions are to –
(a) Manage and coordinate policy dialogue between its Participating States and the EU;
(b) Promote integration and cooperation in the Caribbean;
(c) Coordinate the allocation of resources and manage the implementation of programmes financed by the EDF and by Member States of the EU and any other source as may be approved by the Council of Ministers from time to time;
(d) Provide technical guidance and assistance to Participating States in meeting the commitments and securing the benefits provided for in the CARIFORUM-EU EPA; and
(e) Provide support for the effective participation of CARIFORUM in the Institutions provided for in the CARIFORUM-EU EPA.
Policy-making and Operations
The Council of Ministers of CARIFORUM is the Decision-making Body of the grouping. It provides policy guidance and mandates.
Furthermore, CARIFORUM has a rotating chairmanship, in the alphabetical order of the names of the Participating States and is held for a period of twelve (12) calendar months commencing, with effect, from 1 July. (The current Chair is Haiti and Jamaica takes over the chairmanship from 1 July 2016)
The Secretary-General of CARIFORUM is assisted by the Director-General, who also serves as CARIFORUM Regional Coordinator of the EPA. Of note, the Director-General, inter alia, coordinates and supervises the technical operation of the CARIFORUM Directorate, a technical and administrative body. Based in the CARICOM Secretariat, the Directorate comprises the Development Cooperation Unit and EPA Implementation Unit, respectively.