Dr. Carrington: “There is no room for failure”
By Leonard Gildarie
Regional trade ministers yesterday bade farewell to Secretary General, Dr Edwin Carrington, in what has been hailed as his last session of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), the trade arm of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
The official was seen frequently using his handkerchief in what was understandably an emotional setting for him, even as he extolled the delegates to not falter, but to continue the work to further integrate the region.
The 72-year-old Trinidadian has been at the helm of CARICOM for the past 18 years and is set to retire at the end of this month. But it may not be a total release for Carrington, as CARICOM has indicated that his expertise would still be welcome in any form…or at least his advice.
In addition to a few government ministers who gave him a standing ovation, there were several students of the University of West Indies, all studying International Relations, who were present at the Princess International Hotel, Providence, and who also paid tribute to him.
Carrington has been the force behind the push for regional integration and a single market and economy for the Caribbean.
This is the fourth consecutive five-year term being served by the Trinidadian. Under his watch, CARICOM member states increased from 13 to 15, with Suriname and Haiti joining up. Also formed were regional bodies including the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ), Caribbean Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ), Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), the CARICOM Competition Commission and the CARICOM Development Fund (CDF).
The Secretary General or “S.G.” as he is familiarly referred to, has been recorded as saying he will be writing a book on Haiti when he retires and there will be “no work for six months”.
Yesterday, at the Princess Hotel, Guyana’s Minister within the Ministry of Finance noted that Dr. Carrington is an outstanding Caribbean personality who was highly instrumental in pushing the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).
According to the Minister, who was standing in for Minister of Foreign Affairs, Carolyn-Rodrigues-Birkett, the Secretary General, is a “good friend” who placed regional independence at the forefront.
Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Irwin Larocque, also hailed the outgoing diplomat, who he described as a mentor and leader who had a great sense of anticipation on what would “happen”.
In what would be his last address at the COTED forum, the Secretary General called for more assistance to be offered by CARICOM states to its sister countries suffering from disasters. He singled out cholera-hit Haiti as well as St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines which have been affected by a hurricane.
With over 16 million persons now part of CARICOM, over the years, trade in the region has moved significantly from 9% to 15%.
However, the official felt that enough has not been done by CARICOM to fully capitalize on opportunities that abound from the non-traditional markets like the U.S. and Europe.
CARICOM’s resolve must be strengthened, he stressed, especially with the CSME initiative, and there could be no room for failure.
The two-day meeting of the Trade Ministers, will see a proposal, under Agricultural Trade, by Haiti for non-reciprocal preferential access to the regional market for some goods for a period of three years, and an update on the Caribbean Agricultural Health and Food Safety Agency (CAHFSA) which was launched in Suriname earlier this year.
The COTED forum will also be discussing developments related to the CARICOM-United States Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) as well as the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). With regard to the latter, deliberations will centre on the activities that have been undertaken to implement the EPA.
Other issues Ministers will pay attention to include Services, a permanent headquarters for the Caribbean Aviation Safety and Security Oversight System (CASSOS) and matters related to the Inter-Governmental Task Force for Treaty Revision.
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