BELIZE CITY, Belize — The CARICOM-Mexico summit on Wednesday in Belize is seen as a pivotal opportunity for the Caribbean Community to strengthen cooperation with Mexico, one of the world’s largest integrated economies.
The summit brings together CARICOM heads of government and their foreign ministers, and the president of Mexico and his foreign minister.
It is co-chaired by CARICOM chairman, Prime Minister Dr Keith Mitchell of Grenada and president of Mexico Enrique Peña Nieto. They will be joined in addressing the opening ceremony by CARICOM secretary-general Irwin LaRocque, and the prime minister of Belize, Dean Barrow.
With the Caribbean Community and Mexico still recovering from widespread destruction and loss of life caused by a spate of natural disasters in September, disaster management and recovery will be a major focus of the discussions.
CARICOM has enjoyed a strong relationship with Mexico for over 30 years, developed through biennial summits and the CARICOM-Mexico Joint Commission. Three summits and six meetings of the Joint Commission have been held to date.
The first summit in 2010 concluded with agreements to deepen cooperation in climate change, capacity-building and transportation, and to support Haiti after the devastation from the 2010 earthquake.
Significant outcomes emanated from the second summit in 2012, which focused on relations with the Group of 20 nations, trade and investment, tourism and cooperation, citizen security, and transnational organized crime. It reviewed the work of the sixth CARICOM-Mexico Joint Commission which had articulated cooperation agreements in health, education, security and tourism, economic development, and building capacity for CARICOM’s integration and sustainable development.
Two memoranda of understanding (MoU) were concluded between CARICOM foreign ministers and the foreign minister of Mexico on higher education, and on triangular cooperation with Haiti.
The third CARICOM summit in 2014 in Yucatán Mexico advanced the sixth CARICOM-Mexico technical cooperation programme for the period (2014-2015) in education, statistics, entrepreneurial innovation, health, as well as comprehensive disaster risk management and agriculture. This cooperation programme also focused on air and maritime transportation, tourism, education, energy, port development, and trade and investment.
Mexico has also provided support in other areas. An infrastructure fund for Mesoamerica and the Caribbean, which Mexico commissioned at the XIII Tuxtla Mechanism Summit in 2011, has provided grants and concessionary loans to Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia and St Vincent and the Grenadines for infrastructure development, water systems improvement, solid waste management and health.
Wednesday’s summit provides an opportunity for CARICOM to leverage strategic economic cooperation with Mexico, which has an extensive network of free trade agreements (FTAs). It boasts 12 free trade agreements with 46 countries and seven partial scope agreements in the framework of the Latin American Integration Association (LAIA).
As the Community seeks to reposition its small economies in line with the goals of the 2014-2019 Community Strategic Plan, the summit is also an opportunity to address the current trade imbalance between the two parties.
Between 2012 and 2016, imports from Mexico to CARICOM exceeded exports from CARICOM to Mexico. In 2015 the trade balance in favour of Mexico was US$320 million and in 2016 US$392 million.
CARICOM’s principal exports to Mexico are petroleum products, chemicals and rum. CARICOM’s main imports from Mexico are petroleum products, medicaments, household appliances including refrigerators, kitchen-stoves and ranges and washing machines, grey building cement, detergents, tooth-paste, food preparations, milk powder and iron and steel products (flat-rolled, tubing and casings). Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, Belize, Barbados and Guyana are the main importing countries, accounting for 95 percent of imports from Mexico between 2014 and 2016.