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Mexico to lobby for bloc

BERT WILKINSON Special to the AmNews | 12/13/2012, 1:06 p.m.

When the leaders of the G-20 group of developed nations meet in Mexico next month, most of the small island nations of the Caribbean trade bloc will not be represented at the summit. The region has asked Mexico to proverbially watch its back and represent its list of concerns to the club of richer nations.

Leaders of the two sides met and discussed the issue at the recent Summit of the Americas in Colombia that President Barack Obama attended, but left a fuller menu of items for their one-day meeting in Barbados on Monday. Many of the 15 heads of government attended the conference and reported that they had managed to eke out a promise from Mexican President Felipe Calderon to be their spokesman at the G-20, which Obama is again expected to attend.

The main issue for the regional trade bloc is the recent practice of multilateral lending agencies like the World Bank and the IMF preventing countries with a relatively high per capita income, like the Bahamas, Trinidad, Barbados and Antigua, from accessing concessional loans because of their perceived prosperity.

Caricom, which represents 15 nations from Guyana and Suriname on the South American mainland to Belize in Central America and the Bahamas and Jamaica in the North Caribbean, wants the current criteria for measuring which countries qualify for soft loans and which do not changed to represent modern day realities.

The two have had diplomatic relations since 1974.

Current bloc chairman and Surinamese President Desi Bouterse said at the opening ceremony that while Caricom "is pleased that Mexico will lend us their experience and expertise," the bloc regrettably "is aware that we do not have a voice, though this body makes far-reaching decisions which impact significantly on the viability of our economies."

His colleague, Freundel Stuart of Barbados, contended that the global playing field is not fair. He said that small countries are blamed for harboring international financial criminals, when in fact, "The bulk of proven money-laundering, inadequate regulation and tax avoidance has occurred in the financial centers of Europe and the United States of America.

"We have moved from the rich man's club of the G-7 to the big man's club of the G-20," he said, "whose members are more united in telling non-G20 countries what they should do instead of prescribing for those within their own fold."

Mexico is also slated to assist the region in development works in Haiti, which in early 2011 was devastated by a massive earthquake that is believed to have killed 300,000 people. Mexico will lend its experience to improve the lifeline tourism industry in the Caribbean.