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a109: Good news story shock: Haiti and Caricom (fwd)

From: Tttnhm@aol.com

Haiti set to be a big supplier of curios, seafood to Caricom - Caricom official 
BBC Monitoring Service - United Kingdom; Dec 21, 2001

Georgetown, Guyana, 20 December: Haiti is poised to become a major source of key supplies for the tourism industry of the rest of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom), according to a top regional official.

Hayden Blades, head of the Caricom office in Haiti said that the creole-speaking former French colony could become a key supplier of arts, craft and seafood for the rest of the region. "We look at the area of arts and craft and cultural products and Haiti is tremendously rich in those areas. I think they have a substantial comparative advantage over the rest of the Caribbean in curios and of course in that lies the basis on which we can do trade within the context of the tourist industry," Blades told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) on Thursday [20 December] .

He assured [as received] that the Caribbean was a lucrative market for Haitian seafood, although European Union (EU) product standards now bar such exports to the French Overseas Department of Martinique. "The standards required by the European Union for food products are standards that we don't require in Caricom and I don't see any difficulty in Haiti meeting the kind of standards that we have in Caricom," said Blades, a former Caricom director of trade and agriculture.

While noting that transport was one of the hurdles for trade between that country and the rest of Caricom, he pointed out that Air Jamaica last week began flying between Port-au-Prince and Montego Bay, Jamaica.

Though Haiti and the Caribbean have similar agricultural produce, the Caricom single market adviser explained that Haiti could supply some fruits and vegetables for longer periods, because of the length of the season. In turn, CARICOM hopes to take [and] sell a range of consumer items to the Haitian market of at least 2.8 million of the eight million persons there.

Blades was optimistic that the rest of Caricom could be a source for project financing and building materials to Haiti once the economy began to boom. "I think Haiti is going to become almost like a new frontier for investment in the Caribbean," he said. Currently, CitiBank and Scotia Bank are the only two major foreign banks in Haiti.

Blades acknowledged that the political impasse between the Jean-Bertrand Aristide administration and the opposition over the outcome of the May 2000 legislative elections remained a stumbling block for Haiti to become full members of Caricom.

President Aristide two months ago called a special session of parliament at which legislation for Haiti's membership of Caricom was introduced for ratification. Pending the ratification and presentation of instruments to Caricom, the Caricom Secretariat is laying the groundwork for that country to become full members.

The six-month-old Caricom office in Haiti has so far spearheaded a number of well-attended public consultations with the public and private sector and civil society organizations about the role, functions and benefits of the nearly 30-year-old regional organization.

"There is a tremendous amount of expectation of Haiti joining Caricom; they see Caricom and membership of Caricom as something that would advance the cause of Haiti and allow them to reach out because, remember, Haiti has been isolated for a very long time," Blades added.

Caricom leaders in 1997 agreed to admit Haiti as a provisional member and in June of this year a Caricom office was established to help with the smooth integration of that country into the Single Market and Economy (CSME)...

Source: Caribbean Media Corporation news agency, Bridgetown, in English 1341 gmt 21 Dec 01