A number of key decisions have been reached during the one-day Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable with the US Congressional Delegation.
Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley shared this news at a press conference Wednesday evening, as she disclosed that congressional hearings would hopefully take place later this year, to allow CARICOM leaders to put their case on matters pertaining to correspondent banking.
Ms. Mottley said: “The most important decision that we made…is that the US Congressional Delegation has agreed that this issue is of such major import, that it really now merits congressional hearings to allow us to bring not only those who are here in Barbados today, but to expose this issue to a wider audience.
“And, also to bring those other banks who may well be benefitting from our business, but who are not willing to share in the burden that may be necessary in meeting additional regulatory issues as it relates to giving us the opportunity to be beneficiaries of correspondent banking relationships.”
The Prime Minister said it was also agreed that there would be an annual Caribbean-US Banking Forum, with the Caribbean Development Bank providing assistance. The Forum is expected to be held in October this year.
‘It is important that the banking sector on both sides – in the US and in the Caribbean – get to know each other, get to speak to each other and start to deconstruct and reconstruct, such that we understand what it is we’re trying to achieve, why the regulatory requirements are so complex and challenging, and how we can minimise them….
“We also agreed to do a feasibility study as to whether we should not establish a consortium bank in the United States of America…. This bank will be seen as a narrow bank that could provide the correspondent banking relationships for banks in the region, thereby ensuring that we don’t have to get into battles with others who are not prepared to willingly bank us,” she explained.
Ms. Mottley stated that it was agreed that there should be a proposal to establish an examiner training academy in the United States to train state, local and federal examiners, as well as foreign examiners, including those in the Caribbean.
She indicated that this was necessary to ensure there were baseline standards, a common mission, and that the evaluation mechanisms used were all uniformed. “And, as simple and as technical as that may seem, it is critical to ensuring that people speak the same language and approach issues in the same way,” she surmised.
The Prime Minister added that the officials agreed to incorporate access to correspondent banking relationships into aid and development relationships.
In underscoring the importance of the discussions, she pointed out that the region had been fighting this battle of correspondent banking for over a decade. She noted that the number of banks with correspondent banking relationships had declined in the region.
“If we don’t have a correspondent banking relationship that will allow us to trade with banks outside of our borders, then we will not be able to remit money, we will not be able to trade, we will not be able to basically engage with the rest of the world in anything that has a commercial nature….
“This matter is too critical to us being able to survive and to grow our economies and to provide opportunities for our citizens. We cannot have financial exclusion,” she stated.
The US Congressional Delegation was led by the Chair of the Committee on Financial Services, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, and included Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, Congresswoman Joyce Beatty; Congressman Ed Perlmutter; Congresswoman Stacey Plaskett; Congresswoman Sylvia Garcia, and Congressman Troy Carter.
In addition, several Heads of Government of CARICOM and associate members were present, including CARICOM Chair and Prime Minister of Belize, John Briceño, as well as chief executive officers of various banking and financial institutions.
There were also representatives of the Atlantic Council, who completed a policy paper on the issue in March of this year. Barbados will host another congressional delegation this week.