Mon | Jan 27, 2020

Elizabeth Morgan | The Caribbean and the ACP Summit

Published:Wednesday | December 4, 2019 | 12:11 AM
Prime Minister Andrew Holness

President Uhuru Kenyatta of the Republic of Kenya will be hosting the 9th Conference of Heads of State and Government of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States in Nairobi, December 9-10.

The theme is ‘A Transformed ACP: Committed to Multilateralism’. The summit will address the ACP/EU Post Cotonou negotiations; revisions to the Georgetown Agreement; the redefined ACP vision and role; achieving the UN Sustainable Development Goals, and work done since 2016. This summit will be preceded by ACP ministerial meetings, including the Caribbean, I assume. It has been described as a momentous meeting for the group.

Caribbean leaders were in the forefront when the ACP was established at a meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, in 1975, and hence the ‘Georgetown’ Agreement establishing the group. When the summit meetings were instituted in the 1990s, Caribbean leaders were well represented at the first two held in Gabon in 1997 and the Dominican Republic in 1999. Since then, Caribbean attendance at ACP summits has been very poor.

I am assuming that Caribbean presence at this summit will be much improved because of its importance and the opportunity it presents to further strengthen Caribbean/Africa relations and promote specific interests.

I am anticipating that the following heads will attend:

PM Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines, as the current chair of Caribbean ACP Forum (CARIFORUM) and as the country prepares to take its seat as a non-permanent member of the UN Security Council; PM Andrew Holness of Jamaica, as the current coordinator of the ACP Group in Geneva and a lead negotiator for the Caribbean in the ACP/EU Post Cotonou negotiations; PM Mia Mottley of Barbados, as she will be hosting the 15th UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD XV) in October 2020; and PM Allen Chastanet of St Lucia, as chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). The Dominican Republic’s President Danilo Medino could be there, as well as Cuba’s Miguel Diaz-Canel.

I do not expect Guyana’s President David Granger to attend with elections pending and his fragile health. I hope my attendance assumptions will be proven correct.

CARIBBEAN/AFRICA RELATIONS

Recognising Africa’s increasing economic potential, the ACP Summit will allow Caribbean leaders to follow up on initiatives to strengthen Caribbean/African relations, building on previous overtures and the visits of President Kenyatta to Jamaica and Barbados in August and President Nana Dankwa Akufo-Addo of Ghana to both countries in June.

PM Mottley recently paid an official visit to Ghana. I note that PM Gaston Browne of Antigua and Barbuda met with President Kenyatta while in Nairobi in November. Caribbean and African leaders have pledged to strengthen economic cooperation.

During President Kenyatta’s visit to Barbados, he met with PM Chastanet, CARICOM chair, who announced the intention to hold a CARICOM/African Union (AU) Summit and to conclude a memorandum of understanding to establish a CARICOM/AU framework for engagement and cooperation. There is also talk of CARICOM countries cooperating to establish diplomatic missions in Ghana and Kenya.

There are few resident CARICOM missions in Africa at present. In fact, trade between CARICOM and Africa is sparse and there are no bilateral and regional trade arrangements. The strongest cooperation appears to be with South Africa, Nigeria, Ghana and Morocco.

CARIBBEAN/PACIFIC RELATIONS

Not to be overlooked, the ACP Summit will also provide an opportunity to have discussions with the ACP Pacific leaders who are also small island developing states (SIDS).

The ACP has long had the objective of strengthening intra-ACP relations which has not materialised. The changing relationship with the EU and seeking an expanded international role for the ACP may give the opportunity for its regions to take the necessary action to strengthen relations at the bilateral and regional levels.

I think it will take time and commitment for CARICOM to build this relationship and realise economic benefits from trade and investments.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com