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CARICOM TO FOCUS ON US RELATIONS

Secretary-General of CARICOM Irwin LaRocque.
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Caribbean Community leaders begin two days of talks at their half-yearly summit in Guyana this week with the recent election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States, Brexit and a string of other international issues on their agenda.

Officials say that recent developments in the United States, including controversial changes to the country’s immigration policies and its effects on Caribbean nations cannot escape the attention of leaders.

But just as important would be agreement on a strategy to engage with the new administration in the wake of a satisfactory level of contact with the previous administration including two summit meetings with former President Barack Obama and sessions with other high level officials including the previous secretary of state and the attorney general.

“One of the broader issues we will be looking at is relations with our international partners. Of course, since there is a new administration in the United States, there will be discussions,” Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque said. “That will be the tenet of the discussions we will be having.”

Nationals of some Caribbean countries, even some with green alien registration cards, remain on edge in the wake of moves by federal officials to round up and deport undocumented immigrants and permanent residents with even minor misdemeanor criminal infractions.

This aspect of relations with the US is not likely to be the linchpin of discussions among the leaders. Officials say the bent would be more to find a way to formally engage an inward-looking and insular administration to ensure Washington remembers that the bloc of 15 nations actually exist.

Additional areas of discussion would include continued trouble some regional banks are experiencing in getting mega American banks such as Citi, Chase and Bank of America to process wire transfers, checks and other transactions because of tighter regulations from federal agencies.

BOA in particular has severed ties with most of these banks, forcing some to engage British Crown Agents Bank to process transactions at much higher rates than previous.

Antiguan Prime Minister Gaston Browne will lead the presentation on this issue as he had done at the main annual summit also in Guyana last July.

Meanwhile, leaders will also have extensive discussion on the establishment of a region-wide arrest warrant system that would make the transfer of prisoners and suspects easier than is the case today. Guyana’s President and current bloc Chairman David Granger is the lead spokesman on this issue.

Additionally, leaders will also examine a system to make the recovery of assets from one jurisdiction stashed in another easier for law enforcement agencies to levy on. LaRocque said that “the process for this is very, very advanced” but he was unsure whether the agreement will be ready for leaders to adopt and sign this week.

Speaking ahead of Thursday’s opening ceremony, Secretary General LaRocque added crime and security issues as well as a good look at the workings of the free trade system as other key agenda items.

He said crime in several of the member nations is a cause for concern. “It is a threat to the region and needs a regional solution,” he said.

Some of the leaders flew to Guyana after attending the opening of the Argyle International Airport in St. Vincent earlier in the week. The new airport, nearly a decade in the making, now gives the island the ability to accommodate international jet flights as the old main airport was only good enough for private jets and commuter airlines. Dominica is also looking to go that way as well.

Updated 3:05 am, July 10, 2018
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