Regional bloc and Mexico open joint summit

BRIDGETOWN, May 21, CMC – The leaders of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Mexico were opening their one-day joint summit here on Monday, seeking to forge deeper ties between the 38-year-old regional bloc and one of its oldest partner-nations.

CARICOM Chairman, Surinamese President Desi Bouterse, Mexican President Felipe Calderon and CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque are to address the second Mexico-CARICOM Summit’s opening at 10.30 a.m (1430 GMT) at the Barbados Hilton, on the edge of the capital.

On Sunday, Mexico and CARICOM signed two agreements here on Sunday to boost cooperation on largely high-tech education and rebuilding earthquake-torn Haiti.

CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque and Mexican Foreign Minister Patricia Espinosa signed two memoranda of understanding (MOU), as foreign ministers wrapped up summit preparations at the Hilton.

Barbados’ foreign minister Maxine McClean, who chaired the meeting, said a technical cooperation agreement covered “critical areas for the development of our respective cooperation biotechnology, health, engineering, environment, nanotechnology, tourism, natural disasters, trade and energy”.

“That cooperation would … involve exchange of academics and graduate students,” the Barbadian foreign minister told journalists. The agreement involves collaboration between the Mexican Agency of International Cooperation for Development and the CARICOM Secretariat, she said.

In the second MOU, CARICOM and Mexico also agreed to work together along with its poorest member state in rebuilding from the January 2010 earthquake, McClean said.

“We know that since the tragic earthquake we’ve had several promises of support internationally but… Mexico has actually engaged Haiti and has contributed in several significant ways to that effort to rebuild. And we believe that as CARICOM seeks to play its part … we could more closely with Mexico,” the Barbadian foreign minister said.

McClean said the leaders will explore areas for greater cooperation on trade, investment, tourism, cooperation and international relations.

CARICOM leaders are expected to press Calderon to support CARICOM’s position calling for reform of the international financial institutions, the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and the World Bank, when Mexico hosts the G-20 summit on June 18 and 19.

“Barbados and members of CARICOM are not members of the G-20,” McClean told journalists. “We are seen as middle income but we are highly vulnerable, highly indebted.

“It is important that we have persons who can articulate our case, and therefore countries like Mexico who would have indicated that there are very happy to do so, we will sit and dialogue and ensure that there is a full appreciation of the … very vulnerabilities that we face notwithstanding our successes to date.”

The issue was first raised with the Mexican leader in Colombia’s capital, Cartagena, on the margins of the Summit of the Americas in late April, when CARICOM had expressed concerns that many member countries’ classification as small highly indebted middle income countries blocked them from accessing the concessional facilities and instruments from the IFIs.

On Friday, officials convened the sixth meeting of the Mexico-CARICOM joint commission, the oldest of CARICOM’s joint diplomatic fora with influential states. It also follows up on the first summit between the bloc and the North American nation, held in Mexico in 2010.

“Relations between CARICOM and Mexico are based on an agreement signed in Kingston, Jamaica in 1974, whose objective is to identify and promote cooperation initiatives in order to enlarge economic, political and cultural relations,” said the CARICOM Secretariat in a statement.

“This was advanced in 2009 during the Fifth Meeting of the Joint Commission when both sides signed a declaration in which they expressed their commitment to promote cooperation in areas such as trade and investment, air and maritime transport, financial services, security, health, energy and climate change,” the CARICOM Secretariat said.

But the Barbadian foreign minister acknowledged that the summit was an opportunity for CARICOM to deepen ties with Mexico that to-date have centred largely on multilateral relations, particularly work on global deal to fight climate change.