RIYADH, Saudi Arabia – Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders have ended a one -day “historic” summit with Saudi Arabia on Thursday that both sides regarded it as a landmark event aimed at fortifying partnerships and opening new avenues for collaboration between the largest country in the Arabian Peninsula and the Caribbean.
“I believe so far it has been a very successful and enriching summit and these are the kinds of summits really that the world should have where we can sit around the table in an informal but serious manner on how we can work together, notwithstanding all of the disturbances and conflicts taking place around the world.” Dominica’s Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit said following the deliberations.
“So I would declare this summit as being highly successful,’ said Skerrit, who is also the CARICOM chairman.
The summit came two months after the approval of the Joint Action Plan between the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) and CARICOM for the period 2023-2027.
This plan was endorsed during a joint meeting of foreign ministers on September 18 in New York and outlines the primary objectives and mechanisms for political dialogue, trade facilitation, investment promotion, and tourism cooperation.
According to both Saudi Arabian and CARICOM officials, the summit was poised to enhance trade and investment flows between the two regions.
They note that while the trade volume between GCC countries and the Caribbean stood at approximately US$6.5 billion in 2021, the plan provides a framework to amplify trade and investment through dialogues between officials from both sides.
It emphasizes engagement with business leaders, regional, and international organizations to meet investment needs and business opportunities through partnerships across public and private sectors, including transportation and logistical services.
Skerrit, who along with the Saudi Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman co-chaired the summit, acknowledged the importance of the first summit between the 15-member regional integration movement and Saudi Arabia, given CARICOM’s existence of 50 years.
“It has been a relationship which CARICOM has been trying to engender for some time now and of course with various global events…we were not able to engage Saudi Arabia in that kind of dialogue and dsiscussion.
“It is an historic summit between CARICOM and the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia. We met with both the public and the private sectors…and some of the largest public and private sector , investment groups and looking at investments in the Caribbean by those entitites.”.
He said it is now a matter for the region “to follow up on the necessary initiatives that we discussed and the possibilities which exist in that cooperation framewoork”.
Skerrit said that a meeting was also held with the Crown Prince and discussed “a wide range of issues and areas of cooperation, … and the need for us to work together in addressing the issue of climate change from many dimenions including, the issue of financing for resilient, financing for adaptation”.
Skerrit said that an invitation had also been extended to the Crown Prince to invest in the Caribbean whether it is in tourism or infrastructure.
“There are a number of areas we believe that in the Caribbean, renewable energy that the Kingdom can play a part in investing. As you know several of our countries have contracted loans with the Saudi Arabia Development Fund, these loans come in a concessionary manner and it is a very important source of funding for us especially ina world where access to development funding is becoming difficult”.
Skerrit said the fund is available to the Caribbean , adding “it is a significant quantity of funds set aside for the Caribbean and of course we look forward to deepening and strengthening our relationship with the Saudi Development Fund”.
Skerrit said that what the Crown Prince has indicated that he is able to bring the Gulf States who all have development funds and “In fact when you put the Gulf States together they have the largest available funding in the world and the idea is for us to follow up with a possible summit between CARICOM and the Gulf States and to look at the financing and how we can access those funding.
“So we put in agriculture, renewable energy, tourism, infrastructural development, the construction of ports and management of ports and so the important thing for us in…CARICOM is to have the framework to follow up to ensure that some of the things that we have agreed to that we can get them implemented,” Skerrit added.