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Cayman Summit makes sense

Published: 
Monday, December 6, 2010
GUEST EDITORIAL

Cayman Summit makes sense
It is surprising that it hasn't happened before, and that its orchestration is by a private finance house and a university rather than a government of the sub region.
But whatever the origin of the initiative, there is little doubt that the 'summit' of northern Caribbean countries and institutions for December 17 in The Cayman Islands is not only timely, but has the potential to deliver great value.
Indeed, the mere fact that it is being held —with the attendance of leaders, senior officials, and business persons from most of the territories—is important. In that regard, the organisers, the Jamaica National Building Society and the Mona campus of the University of the West Indies, should be commended.
The fact is, the northern part of the region is a politically and economically important area of the insular Caribbean of global strategic and security value.
Among the countries in this section of the Caribbean are Jamaica, The Bahamas, Cuba, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, the United States territory of Puerto Rico, as well as British Overseas Territories of The Cayman Islands and the Turks and Caicos Islands. Of this group, Jamaica, The Bahamas, and Haiti, and full members of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the Dominican Republic and Caricom form Cariforum to pursue some initiatives, including their joint free-trade agreement with the European Union.
They also inhabit one the world's most important shipping lanes, accounting for an estimated 70 per cent of tourism in the Caribbean, and are at the crossroads between the Americas, making them critical transit points for the world's cocaine trade.

natural economic partners
Geography and context would suggest that these territories would act together on shared security concerns and would be natural economic partners, among whom trade would be vibrant. The former is increasingly happening; the latter is negligible.
According to the Jamaica Exporters' Association, for instance, last year, Jamaica exported a mere US$12.2 million to its northern Caribbean neighbours. This, though, may be an undercounting, not taking into account 'informal' activities between Jamaica and The Cayman Islands, which is home to several thousand Jamaicans.
It seems, in the circumstances, that common sense would insist that these countries should seek to broaden and deepen their economic relationships and collaborate on solutions to their common problems, such as enhancing security in their common border - the Caribbean Sea
It might make sense, especially in the current environment, that The Cayman Islands, with is reputation for financial services; and Jamaica, with its surfeit of lawyers and accountants, jointly leverage their respective strengths to be competitive in a stressed sector.
Or, Cuba's strength in health services may be the basis for partnerships with its neighbours, and so on.
There will, of course, be genuine concerns that deeper cooperation between the northern Caribbean states could lead to a fracturing of existing regional integration arrangements, particularly Caricom. This need not be the case.
The Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States is a viable grouping whose members are part of Caricom. Indeed, some Caricom states have joined other groupings.
Moreover, Prime Minister Bruce Golding, Caricom's current chairman, as well as former Prime Minister P.J. Patterson, a staunch advocate of Caricom, will be in George Town for the summit. They will keep matters on an even keel.
Jamaica Gleaner

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