Haiti will be the next chair of Caricom and Martinique was being named an associate member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
Jamaica’s Prime Minister (PM) Andrew Holness called for stronger relationships to be forged between Caricom states and non-English-speaking countries across the Caribbean and Latin America.
Holness was addressing a panel discussion at the 6th International Monetary Fund (IMF) High Level Caribbean Forum in Kingston, Jamaica on Thursday.
“There is a huge market in Latin America, which Jamaica has to tap into… and I think the rest of the Caribbean has to do the same. For us, I think there is greater advantage with us reaching out,” he pointed out.
The sentiment was echoed by Grenadian PM, Dr. Keith Mitchell and Bahamian Deputy PM and finance minister, Peter Turnquest.
Mitchell said that steps were being taken, citing Haiti being the next chair of CARICOM and Martinique being named an associate member of the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).
The Grenadian head of government added that Guadeloupe has applied for Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) membership “and most likely will be admitted, so I think there is some significant movement in that regard; we are moving in the right direction.”
Turnquest noted that opportunities available to English-speaking territories are not afforded to the other countries “because of the fact that they are isolated, in some respects, because of the language issues”.
The finance minister said The Bahamas makes an effort to maintain relationships with all its non-English-speaking neighbors “because of very specific strategic issues that we have between us”.
The Jamaican PM – who acknowledged that “language is a barrier” – said he is a “big proponent” of full Caribbean integration, adding that Jamaica is systematically pursuing a policy of outreach and engagement with Spanish-speaking countries in the region.
Holness also shared that “it is in our interest that we have the policies to support our people speaking a second language, in particular, Spanish and French.
“I have paid an official visit to the Dominican Republic (with which) we are pursuing a joint tourism agreement… and we have done the same with Cuba,” he said, highlighting that significant benefits can be reaped from such ties.
The panel discussion was moderated by IMF managing director, Christine Lagarde.