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The Greater Caribbean This Week…

South American summit a strategic opportunity

by Norman Girvan


The Second South American Summit held in Guayaquil, Ecuador on July 26-27 marked a significant step in the consolidation of regional relations within the hemisphere. It provides a strategic opportunity for the countries of the Greater Caribbean and of South America to links their economies more closely together.

The 12 countries attending the Summit included four from the Greater Caribbean: Colombia and Venezuela, which are members of the Andean Community (CAN); and Guyana and Suriname, which are members of Caricom. All four countries are members of the ACS.

The Guayaquil Consensus issued by the Summit emphasises the development of physical infrastructure for continental integration. Transport, telecommunications and energy are designated as the key elements of an Initiative for the Integration of the Regional Infrastructure of South America (IIRSA), launched at the 1st Summit in Brasilia in 2000.

IIRSA’s guiding vision is to facilitate multi-sectoral integration within the three main coastal zones of South America --- Caribbean, Atlantic and Pacific --- and to link these with the continent’s internal regions.

IIRSA’s Technical Coordinating Committee is composed of three key financial institutions: the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), and the Financial Fund for the Development of the River Plata Basin. It has identified 162 projects in the three priority sectors for financing and implementation.

These include a bold scheme for road transportation linkages among Brazil, Guyana, Suriname and Venezuela. In Guayaquil, the Foreign Ministers of Venezuela and Guyana agreed to set up a Technical Committee on the construction of a direct road link between the two countries.

Other agreements on the development of transport infrastructure have been made between Bolivia and Chile, Chile and the Southern Common Market (MERCOSUR), Chile and Argentina, and Brazil and Paraguay. There is also a major project for the development of multi-modal transport to link the countries in the Amazon River Basin to the Atlantic and the Pacific.

Suriname, Guyana, Venezuela and Colombia are all Amazon countries and are participants in an ACS programme for Uniting the Caribbean by Air and Sea. In addition, the Plan Puebla Panama (PPP) envisages, a road, telecommunications and energy network linking Mexico and Central America as far south as Panama.

The ACS, IIRSA and PPP initiatives should be seen as complementary to each other. Viewed as a whole, they could offer a strategic opportunity for South America and the Greater Caribbean to be opened up to one another, with the mainland Caribbean countries serving as a bridge by means of north-south and east-west transport linkages.

Other notable features of the Guayaquil Consensus for the Greater Caribbean:

• A trade and economic cooperation agreement between MERCOSUR and CAN should be completed by the end of 2002, uniting the two major integration groupings of South America. The immediate motive is the strengthening of negotiating capacity in external trade relations, principally in the FTAA. Caricom and SIECA, please take note.

• The treatment of small economies in the FTAA should "consider appropriately their circumstances, needs, economic conditions and opportunities" and embrace capacity-strengthening measures.

• Adoption of a Declaration on making South America a Zone of Peace. The aim is to gradually reduce military spending in the continent so as to release more resources for the fight against poverty. The South American Peace Zone could be seen as complementary to the Zone of Cooperation of the Greater Caribbean being promoted by the ACS, to which the four Greater Caribbean countries in South America subscribe.


Professor Norman Girvan is Secretary General of the Association of Caribbean States. The views expressed are not necessarily the official views of the ACS. Feedback can be sent to mail@acs-aec.org.


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