FORT-DE-FRANCE, Martinique (CMC) – Antigua & Barbuda Friday signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the authorities in the French island of Martinique, as it seeks to strengthen and deepen its relations with the French Overseas Departments (DOMs) in the Caribbean.
“I am a believer of that philosophy, since we share the same Caribbean space; believe in the need for further integration of the Caribbean, and are impacted by the global fiscal and economic crisis,” Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said soon after signing the “Declaration of Intent of Cooperation” with the Regional Council of Martinique.
“Therefore, it behoves us to collectively confront these challenges together. We must build bridges of economic and social cooperation to confront the challenges of the ever-evolving global architecture in order to safeguard our future,” he added.
Spencer, who is leading a high powered delegation to the French island, said he was looking forward to giving “life to this historic agreement as soon as possible.
“Within this context, I look forward to receiving a technical team from Martinique in St John’s for discussions within the framework of our new partnership,” he said.
Prime Minister Spencer said he had informed his colleague leaders in the sub-regional Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) that Antigua & Barbuda is the forerunner in the process of engagement with the DOMs.
“Evidence of this is the fact that last year we signed a similar agreement with Guadeloupe. While we seek to activate that agreement, it is my view that both countries will benefit from the synergies and engagement of key stakeholders in the jurisdictions.
“It is our expectation that the partnership would lead for example to the strengthening of our Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI), which is at the heart of the OECS Network of Excellence in Tourism and Hospitality Education,“ he said.
Prime Minister Spencer said that the exchange of students and staff, language training and collaboration on the identification of resources for the expansion at the ABHTI; sports tourism, yachting, renewable energy, agriculture, culture, education and training are among the areas of special interest for Antigua & Barbuda.
“We also welcome the opportunity for engagement with the French Development Agency especially in respect of the ABHTI initiative,” he said,
The Antigua & Barbuda government leader said that his administration would also seek to cooperate with the French islands and the British Overseas Territories (OCTs) to further to integrate them within the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) which includes the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) grouping and the Dominican Republic.
“The time is right for an initiative at the CARIFORUM regional level to discuss issues of common concern including operational matters surrounding implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA),” Prime Minister Spencer said, noting that such a meeting could be held here in Martinique at the technical and political levels.
“The CARIFORUM Directorate must become more proactive and forward thinking especially now when Europe is confronted by so much challenges and our fears that our future relationship may change. Accordingly, engagements with the DOMs and OCTs are crucial as we fashion a proactive response.”
Spencer said that his island has been at the forefront in espousing a “new, forward thinking and focused CARIFORUIM Directorate” through the conduct of an institutional assessment of the present mechanism and that it was now looking “forward to seeing that work commence this year along with the implementation of other decisions of the CARIFORUM Council of Ministers related to governance.
“Given the different challenges, it cannot be business as usual. We are called upon to be agents of change and more dynamic. That is why we have embarked upon this journey of engagement and cooperation with you,” said Prime Minister Spencer, who returns to St John’s today.
Joining him are the NAO for the EDF Programme Dr Clarence Henry, and the executive director of the Antigua & Barbuda Hospitality Training Institute (ABHTI) Calvin Ambrose.