OTTAWA, Canada – Canada and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders Thursday ended three days of a “very successful” summit laying the groundwork for “concrete plan of action” in the future relationship, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has said.
Trudeau, flanked by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and Guyana’s President, Irfaan Ali, told an end of summit news conference that the first ever meeting of leaders of the CARICOM grouping and himself held here, said “this was an outstanding opportunity to gather among friends and partners to talk about the challenges the world is facing”.
He said these challenges include climate change, geo-political instability like the need for a better flow of financing and to talk about the challenges the region is facing.
“It was also an opportunity to talk amongst friends of the values that drive us forward and the connections between partners in this region. We have had a very very successful three days of conversations, but more than that we are coming out of this with a concrete plan of action to continue to harness the opportunities and the potential of the friendship between Canada and the Caribbean and our mutual interest in moving forward in the right way together,” Trudeau told reporters.
“It was a great honour for us to host the first even in Canada, Canada CARICOM summit. It is always better to see each other face to face, especially when we have so many important issues to tackle, like creating good jobs, making life more affordable…fighting climate change and keeping people safe”.
Trudeau said he was thankful to all the CARICOM leaders who attended the summit, saying “thank you for being true partners…and thank you for being such strong voices for the region and your hemisphere”
He said the summit had taken place amid great turbulence including the situation in the Middle East and the ongoing war between Russia and Ukraine as well as the deteriorating conditions in Haiti, a CARICOM member country.
“Our citizens are living with devastating realities of climate crisis whether that’s wild fires in Canada or hurricanes and rising sea levels across the Caribbean. We are facing supply change issues, global inflation, food insecurity. In times like these it is so important to strengthen our relationship with friends and like minded partners.
Trudeau said Canada is committed to implementing a new foreign labour programme for agriculture and fish processing under its temporary foreign worker programme as well as expanding duty free access under the Commonwealth Caribbean countries tariff programme to textile and apparel.
Ali, who was deputising for the CARICOM chairman and Dominica’s Prime Minister, Roosevelt Skerrit, who left the summit early due to the impending passage of Tropical Storm Tammy on his homeland, said that CARICOM was very “pleased at the outcome of the summit.
“We spent a lot of time together creating the framework and ecosystem to support investment, partnership, especially with the private sector and discussing issues surrounding an enabling policy environment that would support the aspirations of both Canada and CARICOM”.
He said the summit also discussed supporting mechanism Canada can hep the region with “in creating an environment which could support financial system reforms, the climate agenda and COP 28…and how we can advance those priorities, food security, regional transport and logistics.
“This summit definitely build our trust, deepen our friendship and expanded relationship and one of the important attributes of the summit itself was the involvement of the private sector,” said Ali.
Rowley said he hoped the summit would be an annual affair, saying “what we have done here is not to be sneezed at.
“The Caribbean islands and Canada, we have a legacy that we ought not to take lightly. In troubled times like these it is imperative that we acknowledge who we are and also agree that we are stronger together.
“CARICOM as a group of island nations…we believe we are stronger together, standing and speaking as CARICOM.But with Canada we are also stronger together in the international community,” Rowley said, noting that if the countries want to disregard the legacy of our history with Canada and decide to walk away “our diaspora won’t let us”.
“We found common ground with regards to Canada’s strength that can be made available to us in the region on the issue of regional security , national safety and security,providing equipment which we find difficult in the region, standing with us and voicing our concern about being disregarded in the international community of financing,” Rowley said, making reference to the decision by the European Union to blacklist two CARICOM countries as tax havens and non-cooperative tax jurisdictions.
Rowley said Canada also had an integral role to play in helping the region become much more self sufficient.
“In the Caribbean we are not without some resources and not without ambition. We have been strengthening our economies and that will allow us to make full use of any additional resources that Canada can provide us with.
“Those resources are not only in dollars and cents. Speaking in the international market place and influencing the conversation and decisions that affect us, because one of the things that affect us is the arbitrary decision making and I might go as far as to say, disrespect of our interest.
“So if we do have help in making our case at the appropriate for a…then we can benefit from a lot of what Canada can say for us and with us because we share these common values. And of course in the area of actual resources, like in training, helping us to maximise what efforts we make, we can benefit tremendously from being together,” Rowley said.