Clinton, Caribbean Leaders Sign Prosperity Agreement
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (AllPolitics, May 10) -- President Bill Clinton and Caribbean leaders unveiled an agreement Saturday that charts a course for unity, improved drug control and expanding development for the Caribbean region.
The Bridgetown Declaration, also called the "Partnership for Prosperity and Security in the Caribbean," was signed by Clinton and 14 Caribbean leaders following a one-day summit in Barbados.
The signing was announced at a sun-baked ceremony on the rolling back lawn of Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur's residence.
"The United States is working to make sure the transition to free trade in our hemisphere is fair to our Caribbean neighbors," Clinton said in announcing the declaration at a news conference.
"We must work together."
Added Arthur, "On this historic occasion ... we have been able to lay the foundations for future cooperation and consultation."
Signing the pact Saturday were the leaders of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and Grenadines, Surinam, and Trinidad and Tobago.
Clinton said he made it clear to the Caribbean leaders that legislation expanding trade with the region needed approval by the Republican-controlled Congress, but said he was hopeful of passage.
U.S. economic aid dropped from $225 million in 1985 to $26 million in 1996, and the regional U.S. aid mission in Barbados has closed.
Caribbean leaders have objected to a tough new U.S. immigration law, criticized U.S. demands to curb drug trafficking, and protested its trade policy with the region.
Despite the contentious issues, Arthur welcomed the president, at one point alluding to Clinton's 1996 election theme of "building a bridge to the 21st century."
"The people of the Caribbean wish to cross that bridge with you," Arthur said to open the summit. "That is what our summit is about."
One sticky issue that was tackled at the summit: a World Trade Organization ruling -- sought by the United States -- against preferences given Caribbean banana imports by the European Union. Caribbean leaders believe it will cost thousands of jobs.
"For many of our countries, bananas are to us what cars are to Detroit," Jamaican Prime Minister P.J. Patterson said.
With one third of U.S.-bound drugs from South America passing through the Caribbean, narcotics was another key summit issue.
The United States wants authority to pursue suspected drug traffickers into the Caribbean nations' territorial waters. Jamaica and Barbados had held out, charging the pacts threatened their sovereignty. After tense negotiations, Jamaica signed a pact and Barbados initialed a tentative agreement this week. Both allow hot-pursuit operations on a case-by-case basis.
Copyright © 1997 AllPolitics All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this information is provided to you.