Honourable Ricardo Carbrisas Ruiz, Minister of Foreign Trade of Cuba
Honourable Vince Henderson, Minister of Housing of Dominica
Mr. Juan Carlos Robinson, Member of Political Bureau and First Secretary of Communist
Party of Santiago de Cuba
Mr. Nicolas Carbonell, President of the Municipal Assembly of Santiago de Cuba
Ladies and Gentlemen
It is indeed a pleasure to be present once again in Cuba, and moreso in this historic
city of Santiago de Cuba.
On behalf of the delegation from the Caribbean Community, I wish to convey our sincere
appreciation for the warm and generous hospitality which has been extended and also for
the arrangements which have been made to allow us to savour the rich culture, the history
and the fauna and flora of this remarkable city.
As a sister nation in the Caribbean, Cuba has had a long history of close human
relationships with the Caribbean Community countries. Cuba, and in particular this city,
is home to many generations of CARICOM peoples who helped to build the early economy. It
shares our common desire for the promotion of regional economic, cultural and
technological cooperation and the attainment of viable, internationally competitive and
sustainable nations with improved quality of life for all. Above all, Cuba has been
working with CARICOM countries to protect our most important patrimony and link, the
Mr. Minister, the signing of the Agreement establishing the CARICOM-Cuba Joint
Commission in December 1993 was a landmark achievement for the Caribbean Community and
Cuba, as it signified a tangible expression, of our joint commitment to establish a
permanent and formal framework for the advancement of cooperation between both sides. It
provided a broader, but complementary and supplementary framework for the fruitful
Bilateral Agreements which have emerged since the then four independent CARICOM Member
countries - Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago - took the historic
decision, in November 1972, to establish diplomatic relations with Cuba.
We recall that the principal objective of the Commission, as enunciated in the
Agreement, is to promote relations in the economic, social, cultural and technological
fields as well as to seek a greater understanding of each others views and positions on
issues which arise in international fora.
That is a wide mandate. Over the years, since the establishment of the Joint Commission
much has been accomplished. However, in a globalising, but fiercely competitive world with
little sympathy for small states there is much room to strengthen our engagement. This has
been recognised since our Third Meeting in 1995, when we agreed on a broad Plan of Action
to guide cooperation, particularly between our many institutions. Many factors have
constrained progress, but we have never lost sight of the vision.
As small and economically weak economies, CARICOM countries and Cuba face major
The dawn of a new millennium and the birth of the Twenty First Century provide a
symbolic moment for CARICOM and Cuba, not only to consolidate our joint efforts, but to
prioritorise and strategise on areas where our development cooperation can be most viable
and effective in the proximate future, while maintaining our wider vision.
This Sixth Meeting of the Joint Commission provides an ideal opportunity in a most
congenial setting, which we should seize to examine particular ways to deepen this crucial
process of establishing closer links, in search of solutions to the many social and
economic challenges which we have, and to strengthen the bonds among our peoples.
In this vein, the significant advancement which has been made in the area of trade in
1999, with the initiation of formal dialogue towards the conclusion of a CARICOM-Cuba
Trade Agreement, must be recognised as a step in this direction.
The Caribbean Community made the hallmark decision in 1999 to place Cuba on the
priority list of countries for the negotiation of trade agreements. Action has commenced
on this and the Joint Commission will be advised on developments.
The Caribbean Trade and Investment Facilitation Office which has been on the Agenda of
the Joint Council, became operational in 1999 and will be formally inaugurated on 1 March
2000 - in two days - in the City of Havana.
Mr. Minister, only this morning we witnessed the signing of a very important
cooperation agreement between Caribbean Export and Cooperación Panamericana, for the use
of information technology for training, communication, e-commerce and trade information
I have instanced these developments in the area of trade, not only because trade
advancement is an important part of the work of the Joint Commission, but because we have
sensed an increasingly strong movement of our business people not only to trade, but to
seek joint investment opportunities. Increased trade and investment will help us resolve
the intractable problem of transportation.
Mr. Minister, since the last meeting of the Joint Commission, CARICOM and Cuba had many
opportunities to collaborate in international fora. These include in the United Nations,
particularly in the Review of the Barbados Plan of Action for Small Island States; in the
WTO, including at Seattle; in relations with the European Union and at the recently
concluded UNCTAD X in Bangkok. The Caribbean Community wishes to recognise publicly, the
unwavering support it has received from Cuba, including at the level of His Excellency
President Fidel Castro, against the challenge to the vital Banana Industry of many of its
smallest members in the WTO. The Caribbean Community, with the support of the Dominican
Republic, has, for its part, promoted and created the opportunity for Cuba, if it chooses
to apply, to be considered for membership of the ACP-EU Agreement.
These developments are all part of the objective and purpose of the Joint Commission.
Our agenda will lead us to a review of several other areas - Human Resources Development,
Science and Technology, Fisheries Research in which there have been significant
In closing, Mr. Minister, we wish to make three final points.
First, CARICOM countries look forward to working with Cuba for a successful South
Summit in Havana in April 2000.
Second, we look forward to working with you, Mr. Minister who has been the most
constant factor behind and in front of this Joint Commission.
Third, we trust that this meeting will advance, significantly, the process of our
cooperation, strengthen the bonds of friendship between the peoples of our countries and
provide the bases for making our Caribbean Region stronger and safer.
I thank you.