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Stuart: CARICOM-USA relationship must be revisited


Stuart: CARICOM-USA relationship must be revisited

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THERE IS A pressing need for the relationship between CARICOM and the United States of America (USA) to be revisited, with a view to making the desired benefits for the people more concrete.

Prime Minister Freundel Stuart expressed this view recently during the one-day CARICOM-USA Summit in Jamaica, which was attended by the President of the USA, Barack Obama. He acknowledged that there was a need for a much more structured partnership upon which the Heads of Government of CARICOM and the USA must urgently embark.

While speaking on the topic Competitiveness/Prosperity, Stuart noted that being competitive was not alien to the region’s experience or challenging to its capacities.  He continued: “Indeed, whenever the playing field has been level and the rules have been fairly applied, the people of the Caribbean have shown the extent of their abilities and the measure of their daring…

“When we engage you therefore, it is not as elegant nuisances, or angry and dejected suppliants ringing the doorbell or banging on the door of the United States of America.  We engage you as people who have a view of the world, based on our experiences, from which we think that your country and others over which it has influence can benefit.  We compete effectively when the playing field is level, but when it is not, our people reserve the right to make their concerns known and to advocate for a more sensitive and a more rational reordering of the world’s business.”

He stressed that the competitiveness and prosperity of the CARICOM region could not be divorced from the economic and political conduct of those countries and institutions with which it had to do business.

According to him, the Caribbean possessed neither the size nor economic and political influence to impose on the rest of mankind, standards and guidelines consistent with their interests.  “It is not states like ours here in the CARICOM region that can impose the GDP per capita measure by which small and still vulnerable countries are graduated from access to concessional financing, both from larger and more powerful countries and from the international financial institutions which they control.

“Likewise, the small states of CARICOM have never had clout enough to determine the behaviour of those correspondent banks whose not too veiled threats now confront the financial sector in our countries with the prospect of certain, but we hope not too imminent, collapse.  And this has not been the only threat with which we have had to deal.  As offshore jurisdictions, our international financial services sectors have been forced to defend themselves insistently, consistently and persistently, against the labelling of our domiciles as “tax havens” with all the pejorative connotations attached to that expression.  This, in addition to change after change in the rules that apply to our jurisdictions,” he said.

Stuart stated that the region continues to be seriously concerned about the grave challenge to the competiveness of rum, one of the region’s most significant exports to the US market.  “This results from the use of the cover-over revenue by US Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico, US territories, to provide trade-distorting subsidies to rum producers in those territories,” he explained.

He also added that “we fear that the information exchange agreements of the Foreign Account Tax Compliance Act of the United States, while justifiable on the grounds of revenue protection and enhancement, may not be applied evenly in respect of the right of access of the US to information as against the exercise of a similar right by our jurisdictions”.

Describing trade in services as an increasingly diversified sector contributing over 60 per cent of the economic output in CARICOM member states, the Prime Minister said it was not now covered under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI)/Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) But, he stressed that regional stakeholders have been actively lobbying different branches of the US Government and potential private sector partners for inclusion of trade in services in the CBI arrangements. (BGIS)