(CMC) – Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders opened a three-day summit in Trinidad on Monday coinciding with the 50th anniversary of the regional integration movement.
Dominica’s Prime Minister and in-coming Caricom chairman, Roosevelt Skerrit told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that the summit provides an opportunity for “introspection and reflection.
“I think it is important for us to assess where we are …and to see where we will be 50 years down the road.” he said, noting that the summit is taking place in Trinidad and Tobago, the birthplace of Caricom.
The integration movement came into being on July 4, 1973 when the then leaders of Barbados, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana signed the treaty of Chaguaramas at the Convention Centre, in Chaguaramas on the country’s west coast.
Dominica was originally due to host the summit, but instead allowed for Port of Spain to host the event that will also include a formal flag-raising ceremony at the site where the treaty was signed and the laying of a commemorative plaque.
“What a good place to be to have that introspection and reflection,” Skerrit said, noting that the regional leaders will have a “number of critical matters to discuss.”
“I am very excited about the next few days,” he added.
St Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr Ralph Gonsalves, currently the longest serving regional leader, told CMC that the conference will provide for “an assessment of the journey we have taken, what we have achieved and what we still have left to achieve…and the ways the treaty of Chaguaramas can be made made alive to deepen the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) and strengthen the areas of functional cooperation”
The CSME allows for the free movement of goods, skills, labour and services across the region and Gonsalves said “there is going to be a review specifically as to how the CSME is going.”
He said there would also be discussions “on how we interface with the rest of the world concerning financing, issues of debt” as well as interaction with the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) which St Vincent and the Grenadines had recently elected as its president.
Caricom Secretary General, Dr Carla Barnett, the first woman and the eighth person to be elected to the post, says the summit provides the ideal opportunity for celebration as well as “deep thinking.”
“We expect a lot of deep thinking because 50 is a big birthday and we have to look at what we have done and what we have to do, but it is also a big celebration because we really have to take account of the fact that against all odds, we have managed as a community to get a lot of work done. So it is a celebration and it is contemplation.”
A number of international guests including the President of Rwanda, Paul Kagame, the United States Secretary of State Anthony Blinken, Senior Chinese government officials, the Prime Minister of South Korea, Han Duck-soo, the United Nations Secretary General, Antonio Guterres and the Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland, will attend the summit.