Foreign Ministers from Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Member States and the Republic of Cuba held their Sixth CARICOM-Cuba Ministerial on June 14, 2019 in Guyana. Agenda items for the one-day meeting included: climate change, the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, the impact of natural disasters on development, security and hemispheric developments.
CARICOM countries and Cuba share a long friendship reinforced by cooperation in a myriad of areas, including trade, sport, agriculture, culture, education and health. For example, many Caribbean students have benefited from scholarships offered by the Cuban government to study at Cuban universities. Cuba and CARICOM also have a Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement (TECA) signed in July 2000.
In his remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the meeting, CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin Larocque reiterated that CARICOM and Cuba “have forged a deep and meaningful relationship based on solidarity and cooperation”. He further praised “Cuba’s contribution to the Community’s human resource development, its health sector, agriculture and in the area of sports and culture has been of major significance to our Member States”. Specifically on the area of trade, Ambassador Larocque highlighted the Second Protocol to the TECA with Cuba signed in November 2017 which expanded preferential access to both Parties.
The current US Administration has sought to tighten sanctions on Cuba, a sharp reversal of the rapprochement which had occurred under the administration of former US President Barack Obama, in order to pressure regime change in Cuba and to stop its support for Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro. Recent US aggression includes, for example, the enforcement of Title III of the Helms-Burton Act and banning cruise ships to Cuba.
Ambassador Larocque noted that “the Community reiterates its call for an immediate and unconditional end to the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed by the Government of the United States of America against Cuba”. He further stated that “CARICOM also rejects, especially the unilateral and extraterritorial nature of these actions”.
In his address (text in Spanish), Cuba Foreign Minister Bruno Rodriguez Parilla expressed gratitude on behalf of the Cuban government, noting that “we feel that we have a permanent debt of gratitude to CARICOM for its historic and brotherly support for Cuba”. He further observed that Cuba and CARICOM “share a common history and similar challenges” and reiterated Cuba’s commitment to share its “modest successes with the Caribbean”. He also revealed that only a few weeks ago, Cuba unveiled a monument in memory of Caribbean National Heroes in a park in the Havana city centre as a symbol of friendship and Cuban recognition of the men and women who turned this group of countries into a “worthy community and independent foreign policy”.
At the end of their meeting, the Ministers released a declaration. The main parts which speak specifically to trade are at paragraphs 7-9:
In this regard, we reaffirm our commitment to continue promoting the implementation of projects to improve air and sea ports, infrastructure and connectivity between our countries and broaden our economic and trade relations through the implementation of the Revised Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement between CARICOM and Cuba;
Commit to complete the required internal legal procedures with a view to giving effect to the Second Protocol to the Agreement on Trade and Economic Cooperation, which will contribute to the strengthening of trade relations;
Reiterate the importance of trade for the Region’s sustainable development and reaffirm the necessity of appropriate policy space and special and differential treatment for small vulnerable economies like those in the Caribbean. In that context, we welcome the hosting by Barbados of UNCTAD XV in October 2020, which will be the first time that an UNCTAD quadrennial conference has been held in a Caribbean country;
The full Declaration may be read here.
Alicia Nicholls, B.Sc., M.Sc., LL.B., is an international trade and development consultant with a keen interest in sustainable development, international law and trade. You can also read more of her commentaries and follow her on Twitter @LicyLaw.
DISCLAIMER: All views expressed herein are her personal views and do not necessarily reflect the views of any institution or entity with which she may be affiliated from time to time.