CARIBBEAN: US Govt Keeps Cuba Out of Trade Pact (fwd)

marta rodriguez (rmarta@world.std.com)
Sat, 14 Sep 1996 18:19:39 -0400 (EDT)


---------- Forwarded message ----------
Date: Mon, 19 Aug 1996 23:25:23 GMT
From: Rich Winkel <rich@pencil.math.missouri.edu>
Newsgroups: wstd.mail.peacenet
Subject: CARIBBEAN: US Govt Keeps Cuba Out of Trade Pact

/** reg.carib: 205.0 **/
** Topic: IPS: CARIBBEAN-TRADE: Thumbs Down to Cuba **
** Written 4:18 PM Aug 12, 1996 by newsdesk in cdp:reg.carib **
Copyright 1996 InterPress Service, all rights reserved.
Worldwide distribution via the APC networks.

*** 09-Aug-96 ***

Title: CARIBBEAN-TRADE: Thumbs Down to Cuba

by Bert Wilkinson

GEORGETOWN, Aug. 9 (IPS) - Cuba is getting the thumbs down from
leaders of the English-speaking Caribbean reluctant to enter into a
free trade agreement with Havana.

Up until a few days ago the Spanish-speaking nation, with a
population of just over 10 million and in the throes of economic
hardships following years of blockade by Washington had been hoping
that regional leaders would have looked on its request favourably.

However, from earlier indications there was little likelihood that
such an arrangement would begin anytime soon.

"We listened to their request and we have agreed to convey their
desire to heads of government in the future," says a top official of
the Caribbean Community (Caricom) who requested anonymity.

The Caricom official was referring to the recent meeting in the
eastern Caribbean island of Dominica when the request was formally
put to a committee of Caricom.

Still from past achievements, some observers say Havana had every
right to believe that this request would have received the thumbs up.

In the last five years Cuba has been able to join the Caribbean
Tourism Association (CTO), has been accepted as a founding member of
the 39-member Association of Caribbean States (ACS) which was
established in 1994 and includes 25 sovereign nations washed by the
Caribbean Sea and 12 dependencies and their colonial powers.

But observers say Caricom's position on a trade agreement is not
surprising as despite its strident criticism of U.S. policy towards
Havana and its unprecedented close relations with Fidel Castro, it
has to bear in mind that its powerful neighbour to the north wields
tremendous influence.

The Caribbean has severely criticised the Helms-Burton Bill which
seeks to punish third countries for dealing with Havana.

During the opening session of their annual leaders summit in
Barbados last month, Caricom Chairman, Lester Bird of Antigua and
Barbuda called the move "a new form of colonialism" saying the region
should continue its opposition to the Bill named after its main
sponsors, Rep. Dan Burton and Senate Foreign Relations Committee
Chairman, Jesse Helms.

This position taken by the region in the last five years is a
complete turnaround from the period of the mid 1980s to the turn of
the 1990s when Caribbean policy was affected by threats from
Washington to reduce aid and punish the fragile economies of the
string of mainly island-nations in various ways.

During that period Cuba has had some measure of success in trading
with the English-speaking Caribbean. The Barbados-based Caribbean
Export Development Agency (CEDRA) last April carried a delegation of
about 20 businessmen to Havana to probe business opportunities.

Trade between Cuba and the English-speaking Caribbean reached 345
million dollars last year, prompting officials to point to the fact
that this present move is not a timid but rather a tactical one.

But now Cuba has been left with a vague promise that the issue of
a free trade agreement is to be "looked into" in an effort to
determine the list of goods that could possibly receive reciprocal
preferential treatment in the future.

"We are not saying that we do not want a free trade agreement with
Cuba, but they are not on the list that heads of governments have
drawn up," says the Caricom official

The list includes the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and Colombia --
which are included in the Free Trade of the Americas initiative which
was formalised at a hemispheric meeting with President Bill Clinton
in 1994. (end/ips/if/bw/cb/96)

Origin: Kingston/CARIBBEAN-TRADE/
----

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** End of text from cdp:reg.carib **

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