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Guyana summit agenda to include Brexit, US

Bert Wilkinson | 1/12/2017, 9:35 a.m.

Caribbean Community leaders have finalized the date for their annual half yearly summit in Guyana in mid-February, and a number of key agenda items, including Britain’s impending departure from the European Union and Caribbean relations with the incoming Donald Trump Administration, are likely topics of discussion, officials said this week.

Leaders will assemble in bloc headquarters Guyana for their two-day conference starting Feb. 16, and apart from the major political changes in two of the world’s most influential countries, a number of key agenda items are on the table for discussion.

Among the items for discussion will be a review of the single trading market system that leaders ordered months ago, especially aspects relating to free travel among the 15 countries in the regional bloc of nations.

Visitors from various countries across the bloc have persistently complained about being hassled at various airports by sometimes rude and unfriendly border agents who disregard community-issued official travel documents and turn passengers away.

Last year, Prime Minister Keith Rowley of Trinidad was forced to pay an official, red-carpet visit to Jamaica to discuss fears about unfair and biased treatment of Jamaicans at Trinidadian ports.

This visit followed the rejection of more than a dozen Jamaicans on a flight last year, many of them single women. The Jamaicans had complained that border agents had made remarks about them being suspected drug mules or prostitutes, or visiting the island to marry local men to remain on the island and procure residency.

Jamaica and Trinidad have also quarreled bitterly about free-trade issues, with the Jamaicans contending that the Trinidadians are dumping goods on Jamaican supermarket shelves without impediments while doing everything in their power to prevent Jamaican goods from selling in Trinidad, despite clear rules regarding duty-free trade.

Other important agenda items will likely include a discussion about continuing troubled relations between commercial banks in the bloc and large American counterparts such as Bank of America.

Several of the banks, BOA especially, have ceased processing wire transfers, checks and other transactions, contending that increased pressure from federal agencies to monitor the sanctity of such transactions increased costs, so they have simply cut relations, leaving their longtime customers to fend for themselves.

Regional leaders say the moves have severely hurt the banking sector and have also increased processing fees because banks were forced to link up with British and third-country banks to process transactions, at much higher termination costs.

This meeting is the second time since the main July summit that Guyana will host the conference. The last time leaders met in full, Guyana had stepped in to host on behalf of Dominica, which had been devastated by hurricanes in recent years.

The same situation had played itself out in 1995, when the tiny island nation was also hit by a powerful storm.

A number of preparatory meetings will be held in the run-up to the summit, including the Community Council of Ministers, who are scheduled to meet in Guyana this week to fine-tune preparations for the summit.