The VII Summit of Caribbean States (AEC in Spanish) in Havana seeks ways to unite the regional countries.

The president of the Chair of Caribbean Studies at the University of Havana, Antonio Romero, told The Havana Reporter that, even though there are diverse currents flowing within the AEC, this Summit plans to focus on agreements and accords with which they all have identified.

The VII Summit of Caribbean States (AEC in Spanish) in Havana seeks ways to unite the regional countries.According to Romero the Caribbean regional block has been experiencing, for a little less than five years, a revitalization process with the objective that the meeting in Cuba would give a boost to endeavors to reach agreement on common issues of interest to the 25 member nations and those that are affiliates.

The AEC emerged in July 1994 and its founding charter describes its fundamental purpose as a consultation and consensus body for all the countries and territories that make up the Greater Caribbean, to include not only islands but all those sharing the geographical zone.

The professor explained that since its foundation the group has identified four priority areas to be addressed in the search for consultation and consensus: trade, tourism, transport and disaster risk reduction.

He said that there is a contemporaneous dynamic and dialectic inter-relation between these four areas of AEC work, because tourism forms a fundamental element of the economic structure of many member states and is a sector highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change.

He said that in this regard there have been development strategies in the sector that are inconsistent with environmental protection.

The academic also pointed out that marine and air transport – essential to boost trade between Caribbean nations – is still a serious problem to be solved in the region, ranking amongst the most serious limitations that have been historically identified.

There was, he said, a generally low level of trade within the Caribbean, because considerable bilateral exchange dynamics have come into play, a situation he said is partially due to the regional weakness of transport.

Similarly, he stressed that all proposed transport and leisure industry strategies must allow for the environmental impact of such developments and the negative effect that climate change has on the Caribbean, which obviously affects progress in these sectors.

Regarding the origin of the AEC, Romero recalled that the organization has faced difficulties that can be traced back to the middle of the last decade, amongst which he mentioned factors associated with structural heterogeneity in development models and the political vision of its various members.

The expert explained that the Caribbean encompasses big states such as Mexico, Venezuela and Colombia and micro-states such as Dominica, Antigua and Barbuda and St Vicent y la Grenadines, which leads to notable differences regarding their international insertion.

He emphasized that different trade and commercial partner models live side by side and that the differing models of development reflected the ideological diversity amongst members.

All of which, he said, when added to the rise of neoliberalism in many nations towards the end of the 1990’s and in the early 2000’s, was reflected in the stunted dynamism of the AEC during this time.

This has led to member governments granting lower priority, in terms of foreign policy perspectives, to their AEC commitments and a failure by some to ratify important accords.

This in turn resulted in a lower AEC profile and a loss of interest by member states in the future of the block, but Romero confirmed that today a noticeable change in the dynamic is perceptible, which is why the VII Summit would endeavor to become a milestone for the preservation of a Latin American outlook in the region.

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