Granger reprimands Caricom Heads over obsolete foreign policies
…cautions regional negotiators ahead of trade talks with UK, EU
Outgoing Caricom Chairman, Guyana’s Head of State, David Granger, has chided his regional counterparts even as he cautions they should ready themselves for a changing international climate replete with uncertainty and complexity.
President Granger was at the time addressing the 15 Caricom Heads of Government at the opening ceremony of the 38th Conference of Heads currently
underway in Grenada.
The Guyanese President served as the Caricom Chairman over the past six months and in his address to the regional Prime Ministers, Presidents, Premier and members of the international diplomatic corps, he warned Caricom it “cannot cling to an obsolete model of insularity in light of these international changes”.
Expanding on the international uncertainties that threaten the very existence of the Caricom grouping, Granger pointed to the recent election of Donald Trump in the United States of America – one of Caricom’s key trade and bilateral donor partners – and pointed to the uncertainty that obtains as a result.
In his cautionary message to the regional leaders gathered at the Grenada Trade Centre on Tuesday, the Guyanese leader pointed to the uncertainties that have arisen for the Region as a result of the United Kingdom’s exit from the European Union, referred to commonly as Brexit.
Granger used his time at the podium to also draw reference to EU’s policies towards Caricom and stressed that “after the expiration of the Cotonou Accord, is uncertain (ty)”.
He spoke too of the likely impact of changes in the policies of the African Union (AU) and its impact on the Caribbean in light of its association to the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States.
According to the Guyanese President, “Six months has been a long time in international relations, as we have seen in the US, UK, EU and the AU…This semester has provided ample opportunities for the Community to work together to protect our vital interests at the levels of citizen, country and the Community.”
Delivering his blistering assessment of the 15-nation Caribbean Community grouping, Granger said, “The mirage of 15 airlines, 15 cricket teams, defence forces and 15 embassies in the capitals of the world might mesmerise a few sentimental romantics, but could deplete the treasuries of our States.”
According to the outgoing Caricom Chairman in his starkest warning to regional leaders since taking office, “the Community has vital strategic interests to protect and promote in its international relations”.
He said it was imperative that Caricom engaged foreign States to preserve its interests and “the Community also must ready itself for negotiations with the UK, EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States”.
He instead suggested that the Community, “challenged by the constantly changing international situation, must redouble its efforts to ensure a more safe society for its citizens, more stable economies for its countries, deeper solidarity and a more secure hemisphere.”
Turning his attention to the sore issue of the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) and its less-than-desired rate of implementation across the Region, the outgoing Chairman reminded his regional counterparts that the initiative was the Community’s best response to the inevitable changes in its traditional markets in Europe, the prevalence of economic liberalisation and the emergence of economic blocs.
“The CSME is still the best vehicle to allow small states to compete in the global economy while promoting economic and social development.”
He told the Caricom Heads of Government, including incoming Chairman, Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada, “CSME is the most ambitious project attempted by the Community; it must not become its most ambiguous.”
According to Granger, “CSME, especially given the present uncertainties facing the Region’s international relations, must be accelerated in order to create a single economic space.”
Following the Opening Ceremony of the 38th Conference of Heads of Government, Granger used the opportunity to venture to the Mt Cinnamon Hotel in Grenada, where he, along with Foreign Affairs Minister Carl Greenidge, met with members of the Diaspora for an engagement at a reception.
The President, in his interaction with Guyanese living in Grenada, reminded them of his appeal to the regional Heads of Government.
He told those Guyanese in attendance at the reception, “I feel we in the Caribbean have to be very alert to what is taking place in the world,” and again drew reference to developments in the US, UK, EU and A. “We cannot afford to be left behind.”
According to President Granger, “we cannot afford to drag our feet in coming together,” and must in fact work towards being a community acting in unison in order to be able to exercise any clout in negotiations with the US, UK, the Organisation of America States, Britain, the European Union or any of the other power blocs.
Invest in home
Turning his attention to domestic affairs, the President reminded attendees of the important role of the Diaspora in the development of Guyana as a nation and in the determination of its development trajectory.
The President drew reference to the fact that most Guyanese who travel abroad such as those residing in Grenada often times improve their education and financial standing, making them viable investors for opportunities existing at home.
He spoke of developments in Information Communication Technology and the Administration’s plans for its use in sectors such as education.
Granger, while not calling for those Guyanese in attendance to return home – except at election time to vote for him – instead invited them to use their innovation, talents and finances to invest in their homeland.
The Head of State used the occasion to recall Rabbi Washington of the infamous House of Israel who had escaped from a correctional facility in the United States, but managed to set up a thriving fried chip business in Guyana.
The Guyanese President was quick to make pellucid that his reference to the escaped fugitive’s business was simply to make the point, “you don’t have to eat Pringles; you don’t have to eat plantain chips from Guatemala”.