- Your Excellency Marta Lucia Ramírez de Rincón, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Republic of Colombia; and
- Senator the Honourable Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration of Belize and Chairman of the CARICOM Council for Foreign and Community Relations;
- Excellencies Ministers of CARICOM Member States and Colombia
- Heads of Delegation;
- Senior Officials;
- Other Distinguished Ladies and Gentlemen;
- Members of the Media.
It is indeed a pleasure to participate in this the Second Meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Colombia. Allow me to express sincere appreciation to the Government and People of the Republic of Colombia for the excellent and generous facilities accorded to all our delegations. We anticipate a successful meeting which will no doubt contribute to the further strengthening of the close ties between CARICOM and Colombia.
Excellencies, those ties were cemented by the conclusion in July 1994 of the Agreement on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation. However, the hiatus between the meetings of the CARICOM-Colombia Joint Council, the main mechanism for the implementation of the Agreement, has impeded the ability of both sides to implement the accord effectively. In this regard, I am pleased that the Seventh Meeting of the Joint Council is scheduled to take place next month, as it will serve to bolster our relations and to advance our discussions on issues of mutual interest. It will allow an opportunity to follow up on matters which may be agreed in this meeting. This follow up is critical if the areas of collaboration and cooperation identified in the discussions we are having today are to have a lasting positive impact on CARICOM Colombia relations and on developments within each of our countries.
Today’s engagement affords us an opportunity to explore avenues where cooperation can be enhanced even further, thereby ensuring a continuing mutually beneficial relationship.
Co-Chairs, Excellencies, you will agree with me that this meeting is taking place at a most challenging time. It is appropriate that cooperation in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic forms part of today’s deliberations. The protracted and multi-dimensional effects of the crisis caused by the pandemic compel us to have a constructive dialogue with a view to finding creative ways in which we can collaborate with international partners in order to find durable solutions that will be mutually beneficial. In this connection, I wish to applaud the First Knowledge Fair for Caribbean Countries which seeks to encourage the exchange of knowledge, experiences and lessons learned towards innovative solutions to the development challenges.
The pandemic has placed an additional burden on the vulnerable and small economies of CARICOM, all of which are highly vulnerable to the impact of climate change and most of which are highly indebted and denied access to critically needed development assistance and concessional financing, owing to the use of GDP per capita as the principal criterion for such access. This is why we seek support for the introduction of a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index as a more appropriate criterion for accessing such funds. We invite Colombia to support our call for a Multi-dimensional Vulnerability Index.
Like in other developing regions, foreign direct investment plays a significant role in the economic growth and sustainable development of our countries. The Caribbean Community presents a diversified economy in which each CARICOM country has identified a range of priority sectors with potential business opportunities for investors from Colombia.
Honourable Foreign Ministers, at the First CARICOM-Colombia Meeting, in reviewing the relationship between the Caribbean Community and Colombia, you paid special attention to collaboration in the areas of trade and investment, climate change and disaster risk management, and looked at ways and means to facilitate and enhance connectivity between both parties, within the framework of the CARICOM-Colombia cooperation. These areas continue to be of priority.
As we gather here in Colombia for this Second CARICOM-Colombia Ministerial Meeting, it is my sincere wish that we will have a focused dialogue on the areas identified for discussion, resulting in the adoption of strategies that can only further enhance an already mutually beneficial partnership.
I thank you for your leadership, Madam Vice President, for your leadership that brought us to his meeting and look forward to a successful meeting today.