Photo: OECS. Keeping the CARICOM flag flying. CARICOM leaders are expected to reveal their own plan for fighting international financial crime later this week.

OECS Ministers of Foreign Affairs concluded a successful Sixth Meeting of the Council of Ministers – Foreign Affairs on September 10, 2020.

The meeting was held via video conference under the Chairmanship of the Minister for Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis, the Hon. Mark Brantley, and involved ministerial representation by all members of the Council except one which was represented at the level of Ambassador.

The meeting addressed issues of critical concern to the Organization and its Member States including key developments in the international arena; the ongoing negotiations between the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPs) and the European Union (EU) on a new Agreement post-Cotonou;  blacklisting of States as  “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions” by the European Union, BREXIT and its implications for Cariforum/UK Trade and Economic Relations; and strategic joint diplomatic and commercial engagement in specified jurisdictions.

The Director General commented on developments in Europe particularly the issue of blacklisting, the current negotiations between the OACPS and the EU on a successor agreement to Cotonou, and the implications of Brexit for Cariforum-UK trade relations, the need to monitor developments in Asia and the impending elections in the USA.

He emphasized the need to further strengthen the capacity for foreign policy harmonization in efforts to successfully navigate these and other complex global issues.

The Outgoing Chair remarked that the Council was meeting at a time when member states’ economies and peoples are facing unprecedented times – from the challenges posed by the inherent structural characteristics of their economies, emerging multilateral arrangements, climate change, to the Covid-19 pandemic.

He however expressed optimism that collective efforts towards integration will assist to successfully steer the region through these unprecedented turbulent times.

The Incoming Chair of the Council, the Hon. Mark Brantley, Minister for Foreign Affairs of St. Kitts and Nevis  pledged his full support in advancing the key objectives of the Organization and the region.

He urged that Council rethink and formalize more regular meetings to allow for reassessing goals and evaluating progress toward the achievement of the region’s pursuits.  The Incoming Chair encouraged the alignment of the OECS’ interests with that of the wider region as far as possible, but cautioned that the region must not be constrained or submerged by the latter’s agenda.

Brantley remarked that the Coronavirus created opportunities for discovering innate creative abilities and talents particularly in the region’s youth.  The Incoming Chair recommended that these talents be harnessed and that the youth be provided with the requisite support to transform their skills into thriving business ventures for a more promising future.

Cotonou refers to The Cotonou Agreement which is a treaty between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States . It was signed in June 2000 in CotonouBenin‘s largest city, by 78 ACP countries. (Cuba did not sign) and the then fifteen Member States of the European Union. It entered into force in 2003 and was subsequently revised in 2005 and 2010.

As at February 18, 2020, the EU blacklist of tax havens comprises the following twelve jurisdictions: American Samoa, the Cayman Islands, Fiji, Guam, Oman, Palau, Panama, Samoa, Seychelles, Trinidad and Tobago, the US Virgin Islands and Vanuatu.

Many tax havens are former or current dependencies of the United Kingdom and still use the same core legal structures. British Empire-related tax havens include Bermuda, the British Virgin Islands, and the Cayman Islands, and other island nations that are now independent from Britain.