With the backdrop of a sustained explosion in tourism and the influx of new airlines and cruise ships to its geography, Havana hosted in March the 22nd Meeting of the Council of Ministers of the Association of Caribbean States (ACS) and the 5th CARICOM-Cuba Ministerial Meeting, both of which bet on re-launching cooperation, trade and transportation among the region’s economies.
June Soomer, the diplomat from Saint Lucia who was ratified as the secretary general of the ACS, said that on reassuming the post she was conferred the mandate of again taking CARICOM to the ACS work table. She opined that there are “great opportunities” for both Caribbean organisations to work together.
Cuba has given great priority to its links with the rest of the 25 ACS member countries, based on cooperation, complementariness and the creation of strategic alliances with a view to sustainable development, the director of Commercial Policy for Latin America and the Caribbean of the Foreign Trade and Investment Ministry (MINCEX), José Chaple, told the press.
In addition to a protocol for a commerce and economic cooperation agreement between the Caribbean Community and Cuba, the common meeting insisted in achieving that the economic and cooperation relations between the largest of the Antilles and CARICOM be “a two-way process.”
Since 2015, Cuba’s exchange with the Caribbean has grown 98 per cent and there is growing interest among the Caribbean businesspeople in the Cuban market, according to the meeting participants.
The director of Foreign Investments of MINCEX, Deborah Rivas, told the press that the ACS has a geography zone of enviable potentials for the promotion of trade and investments since it is a space linking the north and south, through which an extensive flow of merchandise and persons travel.
Both meetings favoured a better air-maritime connection in the area, under the concept that it is a fundamental basic step to aspire to the development of trade and economic cooperation in the Caribbean.
The members of the ACS are studying the creation of a regional airline that will make possible a direct connection between these countries, Transportation Ministry expert Pedro Suárez announced. It can be very complex to travel from one island to the other in the Caribbean despite the fact that its geographical distance is short, he said.
Suárez reported that up to now a total of 13 countries have signed the ACS air transportation multilateral agreement, which in terms of the civil aviation law makes flexible the connections between the signing States.
The development of better means of communication would prop up the flow of tourists between the Caribbean countries, which with some 40 million visits a year is identified among the world’s principal tourism markets.
We are not dealing with tourism from the perspective of competition, said Rivas. “We defend multi-destination in order to strengthen the advantageous alliances for the small insular states as well as for the continental ones, which make up the Caribbean Basin.”
The Cuban delegation also presented in the ACS meeting the project of the Greater Caribbean Maritime Port Strategy, to facilitate exporters and importers of the zone and of the world all the information about transportation services and the existing routes.
Commercial exchange with the other countries in the region, amounting in 2016 to close to 2.5 billion dollars, represents a fifth of Cuba’s foreign trade.
Cuba exports to the Caribbean medicines, steel levers, chemical reagents, rum, cigars, among other goods, while it imports fuel, herbicides, beer, canned food, foodstuff and household electric appliances.
Cuban cooperation’s principal foreign destination is in the ACS countries. Out of the more than 31,000 Cuban collaborators in the region, 86 per cent are providing services in the health sector. Other spheres of collaboration are agriculture, construction, sports, education and culture.
Since its creation in July 1994, the ACS has been prioritising four lines of work and greater cooperation in sectors like trade, tourism, transportation and disaster risk reduction. (2017)
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