The Caribbean Community is preparing to meet with Cuban officials for the sixth round of talks aimed at restructuring international trade beginning Dec. 8.
The VI Caricom-Cuba Summit will be held in Antigua and Barbuda as it celebrates the 15th anniversary of its tri-annual summits and the 45th year of continued diplomacy and solidarity in the Caribbean.
Cuba’s Foreign Ministry expressed its gratitude to the Caribbean’s continued support amid the U.S. blockade, saying it will never forget the kindness and attitude of its leaders, namely Errol Barrow, Forbes Burnham, Michael Manley and Eric Williams, Prensa Latina reported.
These leaders were monumental in opening the door to mutual respect, friendship and cooperation between the Caribbean nations, the ministry said.
Due to the 45 years of good relations as well as the gradual integration of Cuba’s health, education and sports, the nation has seen a rise in trade output and finances. In 2016 alone, trade was US$126 million a 92 percent increase from the year before.
According to the Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment Rodrigo Malmierca, over 5,000 Caribbean students have studied in Cuba and as a result of the regional organization's strong relations with Cuba, the island has been able to assist neighboring nations such as Haiti with desperately needed disaster relief more quickly.
"It continues to be a challenge to all our governments and commercial enterprises to streamline the foundation we have already set up. What is significant is that there is a definite will and a firm determination for all to carry out that task," he said of the Caricom-Cuba relations.
The delegations signed the Second Protocol of the Agreement of Trade and Economic Cooperation with Caricom in November in order to expand business and trade endeavors throughout the Caribbean.
Ministers say they hope Friday’s meetings will create a “space for exchange and coordination in a frank, friendly and fraternal environment.”
The summit has been held since 2002, stemming from a convention which established the diplomatic relations between Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago on Dec. 8, 1972.