Prime Minister Freundel Stuart delivering his opening address at the opening ceremony of the Second CARICOM-Mexico Summit, today at the Hilton Hotel. (C.Pitt/BGIS)??

I am delighted to have the opportunity, on behalf of my fellow CARICOM Heads of Government, to extend to you, President Calder??n, and to your delegation, a warm and brotherly welcome to Barbados. ????My Government is doubly honoured at this historic opportunity to host the first ever visit to our country by a Mexican Head of State.????

Your committed leadership has played a pivotal role in elevating the dialogue between Mexico and the countries of the Caribbean Community to its highest possible level.?? I am confident that as we take the process forward, here in Barbados, we will advance practical ways in which Mexico and CARICOM can work together in pursuit of our shared development goals.

Mexico and the countries of CARICOM, though greatly disparate in size and population, have much in common. We inhabit a space at the cross roads of history and geography, where the Atlantic Ocean meets the Caribbean Sea and the Gulf of Mexico. ??If we in the Caribbean have in the past been labelled as the Third Border of the United States, then Mexico could be considered as its true First Border.

That geostrategic reality gives Mexico a profound insight into the complexities of our hemispheric inter-dependence and a unique understanding of the challenges to be overcome as we seek to achieve equitable economic and social development for every citizen of the Americas.

In this the generation of the Internet and the short attention span, history often appears to be confined to what happened yesterday. Thus any commentator noting that this is but our second Summit could be forgiven for thinking that the process started in 2010. He would be wrong.

Mexico and the Caribbean Community have had a Joint Commission ??arrangement ??since 1974.???? Bilateral relations were established several years ago between Mexico and the CARICOM countries, with relations with Barbados being established in 1972.???? This predates both the formal establishment of the Caribbean Community and the setting up of the Joint Commission.

The first wave of Caribbean countries to claim their seats at the United Nations and the Organization of American States, found in Mexico a supportive ally and influential champion of third world causes; a leader in the search for the then described New International Economic Order; an implacable defender of the right to self-determination and of the principle of non-intervention; and a pro-active promoter of south-south cooperation.

Mexico’s Caribbean Basin identity has been asserted in many ways since then. ??Its genuine concern for the welfare of the small states of Central America and the Caribbean is reflected in an impressive trajectory of diplomatic activism from Contadora to the Rio Group, and thereafter through support for our strategic vision of an enlarged Caribbean space, leading to the creation of the Association of Caribbean States, whose vital Caribbean Sea Initiative our countries continue to champion.

Those of us who know that history did not begin yesterday are also aware that a pioneering oil facility was brought into being jointly by Mexico and Venezuela under the San Jos?? Agreement of 1980, from which countries like Barbados benefitted. This much appreciated arrangement predates PetroCaribe, and provided a secure supply of oil, on creative concessionary terms, to the countries of Central America and the Caribbean, at the height of the second oil crisis.

The process we are embarked upon today should rightly be seen, therefore, as the continuation of decades of close association and interaction between us.???? It falls to us now, at this meeting here in Barbados, to select the priority areas where we believe the modern relationship between Mexico and CARICOM should concentrate its energies and to establish the framework for translating our decisions into implementable actions.

For the countries of the Caribbean Community Mexico continues to be a strong and valued partner. ????Mexican policy-makers have admirably steered the Mexican economy past the contagion of the international financial crisis and the collapse of international trade, to a position of stable and sustained growth. ????Within two decades Mexico has become one of the leading and most open economies in the world, and a strategic manufacturing hub for an increasingly diversified and sophisticated range of export products.

This provides excellent opportunities for partnerships in trade and investment with the countries of the Caribbean, especially in the context of the CSME. ????A Trade and Investment Forum is an important vehicle to explore the synergies among our respective business sectors. Barbados believes that the convening of such a Forum should be treated as an urgent priority.

In the area of services, specifically tourism, there is considerable scope for greater collaboration. ????Barbados and other CARICOM countries are well aware of the significant steps that Mexico has taken to advance its market share in an increasingly volatile global environment.??

We acknowledge Mexico’s international leadership role in highlighting the enormous and under-appreciated contribution which travel and tourism make to sustainable development. ????We therefore hope that the Federal Government’s active involvement in the sector will lead to Mexico’s renewed and active presence in the Caribbean Tourism Organization. This would greatly enhance our strategic cooperation in sustainable tourism development for the benefit of the entire region.

We all appreciate the enormous courage and resolve it has taken for the Mexican Government to confront the criminal networks of narco-trafficking and transnational crime which operate within its borders.???? The critical issue of Citizen Security and Transnational organized Crime will also be part of our high level discussions.?? Barbados and other CARICOM countries have our own security challenges, which have led us to devise a comprehensive structure for co-ordinating our pre-emptive and interdiction efforts.

Unilateral or fragmented approaches cannot effectively confront the security of the wider region, and we know well that successes in one geographical area may shift criminal activity elsewhere to areas perceived to be more vulnerable. Constant multilateral coordination and cooperation, and a high level of information exchange and shared experience, are therefore essential to face our common threat.

Colleagues, this Second Summit in Barbados provides also an opportunity for an exchange of views on the newly formed Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC), and on how we interpret its role within the context of regional and hemispheric affairs.

The original idea was for the creation of an inclusive space for high level dialogue and policy coordination among all the developing countries of the hemisphere. Barbados supports the original concept because we believe, as do our CARICOM colleagues, that it is important for the developing countries of the hemisphere to have our own unique space to discuss strategic issues affecting our vital development interests and to develop meaningful south-south cooperation among ourselves. ????

We cannot, however, support efforts that would divert focus away from these development objectives and which could turn the new Community into an instrument of confrontation and attack against those hemispheric partners who are not among its membership. ??Barbados believes that if CELAC is to succeed then it must concentrate on building on the positive relations that already exist among us. ????It must also be sensitive to the nuanced positions of the sub-regions from which it is formed. ??

For as the Barbados Foreign Minister asked her Rio Group counterparts in the Montego Bay Meeting of 2009: "How can the small and vulnerable among us be assured that the space being created will enhance our voice and not diminish its relevance??? We would not wish to exchange a situation where the large and influential developed countries seek to speak on our behalf for one in which the large and influential developing countries of the hemisphere inherit that role".

While Barbados accepts the utility of having our own regional space, we feel that the wider interface with our developed country regional partners is still relevant. Coordination of the positions of the developing countries should enhance the wider hemispheric dialogue, making it more coherent. CELAC is as an important complement to, and not a substitute for, the Organization of American States and the existing Inter-American System, including the Inter American Commission on Human Rights, and the Democratic Charter.

We acknowledge that reform and modernization of the OAS remains a work in progress, and that the biggest piece of unfinished business is the anachronistic exclusion of Cuba from that wider body. ????CARICOM has at every possible opportunity given its unambiguous support for the reintegration of Cuba into the mainstream of hemispheric affairs. ??Now, more than ever, is there a need for careful and mature diplomacy if we aim seriously to help the relevant parties create a framework for dialogue in the admittedly complex bilateral process of rebuilding a relationship and reversing 50 years of non-engagement.

President Calder??n, Colleague Heads, Secretary General, at this uncertain juncture of world affairs perhaps the greatest contribution that Mexico can make to the cause of Caribbean development is that of advocacy. ??Mexico’s crucial role as current chair of the G20 represents a unique opportunity for the concerns of the region’s small and marginalized to be brought to the attention of next month’s G20 Summit through its good offices. ??

We will of course be discussing our positions more fully in our working session, but I must articulate here some of CARICOM’s critical concerns, which include:

  • the slow process of reform of the multilateral institutions and the uneven results to date;
  • the continued lack of representativeness and transparency of the G20 which, as the Commonwealth Secretary General has recently said, may represent 90% of global GDP but certainly not 90% of the world’s countries;
  • the worrying signs that we have moved from the rich man’s club of the G7 to the big man’s club of the G20, whose members are more united in telling non-G20 countries what they should do than in prescribing for those within their own fold;
  • the constant tilting of playing fields and moving of goal-posts in the G20’s response towards Caribbean-based international financial centres, notwithstanding the fact that the bulk of proven money-laundering, inadequate regulation and tax avoidance has occurred in the financial centres of Europe and the United States of America;
  • the need to find room within the assertive liberalization policies of the major trading nations to accommodate the legitimate trade sensitivities of the Small Vulnerable Economies and to promote supportive policies for them in the areas of financing for development, aid for trade, and addressing the issue of indebtedness;
  • the need to reassert the grave threat posed by Climate Change and the urgency of agreeing on a comprehensive and ambitious response – and here we know that Mexico, through its national commitments and domestic legislation has already led by example;
  • and finally our hope that Mexico will champion and promote the recently adopted Barbados Declaration on Achieving Sustainable Energy for All in the Small Island Developing States.

President Calderon, Fellow Heads of Government, Secretary General, our Summit today is the culmination of several days’ hard work by our Ministers and representatives at the bilateral and CARICOM levels. ????I look forward to a rich and productive dialogue and to the success of this Second CARICOM-Mexico Summit.???? I trust that you will be able to fully enjoy the hospitality of our country for every minute of your stay!

I thank you.

Author: Prime Minister’s Office

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