EDITORIAL: Strengthening ties between Mexico and CARICOM

THE CARICOM-Mexico Summit has ended with the two sides agreeing to strengthen co-operation in disaster management.

The agreement, according to news reports on the outcome of the meeting in Belize, is said to form part of a Joint Declaration issued at the end of the event.

This fourth CARICOM-Mexico Summit came in the wake of a devastating earthquake in the Central American state and hurricane damage in the Caribbean. The summit was held under the joint chairmanship of CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Mitchell of Grenada and the President of Mexico, Enrique Peña Nieto.

The document that was issued following the summit indicated that the CARICOM-Mexico Strategy for Comprehensive Disaster Risk Management will have three main lines of work. It will strengthen initiatives already in place; promote co-operation in training and the exchange of best practices in a range of relevant areas such as early warning, awareness raising, emergency response, rehabilitation of physical and telecommunications infrastructure, and risk transfer, among other things.

Relations between Mexico and CARICOM go back several decades when the latter group, having just attained political Independence from England, sought to broaden economic and political ties with their immediate Latin American neighbours. It had always been the desire of the smaller Caribbean states to diversify their relations in the western hemisphere, because they shared certain similarities with some of the bigger countries in South and Central America. The Organisation of American States, the Inter-American Development Bank, the Latin American Economic System were some of the early agencies which CARICOM countries became aligned and eventually becoming members.

It is known that given their economic circumstances and small sizes, diversifying their relations made sense. It will be recalled that Mexico, at the height of unstable oil prices in the 1980s, created an oil facility that was known at the time as the San Jose Agreement. Under that arrangement, Mexico as an oil-producing state, allowed for oil sales at concessionary prices to Caribbean and Central American states. Not having the facilities to process the heavy Mexican crude, Venezuela was then brought into the picture to do the processing, following which the crude was subsequently exported to the recipient countries. That arrangement helped the countries to cushion the impact from the high oil prices at the time.

There have also been other areas of co-operation between Mexico and the Caribbean, with Barbados especially having signed a Double Taxation Agreement with that country.

They have also co-operated in the area of Tourism as Cancun, a popular tourist destination, is part of the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO), which is based in Barbados.

Many will therefore welcome the summit as it approved the seventh CARICOM-Mexico Technical Co-operation Programme (2017-2019), which establishes a new paradigm for co-operation. In addition to disaster risk management and recovery, the programme will also cover trade and investment, health, statistics and ICT, in line with the CARICOM Strategic Plan 2015-2019 and the global development agenda.

It is also noted that some 150 scholarships will be available for training Caribbean teachers in Spanish as a second language, which should further strengthen communication between the two sides.

Given the economic uncertainty and the challenges of climate change, both regions need to work together.

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