Frank talks

Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart (centre), in conversation with Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean is pictured at right, along with Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Sonja Welch (left).
Prime Minister of Barbados, Freundel Stuart (centre), in conversation with Prime Minister of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Dr. Ralph Gonzalves. Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean is pictured at right, along with Permanent Secretary in the Prime Minister’s Office, Sonja Welch (left).

Caribbean Community leaders went into an all day retreat in Port of Spain today, resuming “frank and open” discussions on the issue of air and sea transportation within the 15-member grouping.

St. Vincent and the Grenadines Prime Minister Dr. Ralph Gonsalves told reporters that the issue had been discussed during the first day of deliberations on Thursday as well as matters pertaining to the CARICOM Multilateral Services agreement.

Gonsalves said he had presented the leaders with a report from the Council of Trade and Economic Development that dealt with the air transportation issue in May.

“Among the issues discussed were issues concerning the new Multilateral Air services Agreement, some issues relating to the aeronautical services entity here in Trinidad which manages the Piarco flight information region which covers the OECS (Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States) region as well as Barbados, the taxes and the relationship between the various state owned airlines and critically the issue of the subsidy”.

Gonsalves said he was heartened by the frank and open discussions to date by the regional leaders.

“The discussions were very open, very frank so that we knew where all of us stood on the question. I am optimistic that we will have a resolution on some of the issues and particular modality adopted on others going forward.”

The leaders have gathered in Point-a Pierre in the south of the island at the Petrotrin compound for their retreat, and Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer said he too remains optimistic about a solution to the air transportation problems in the region.

“We discussed the matter fully and various aspects on a very important topic were ventilated. We decided at the end of the day that the heads should look more closely into the matter when we meet in caucus … and coming out of those deliberations some decisions will be arrived at,” he said.

Spencer said “anything having to do with transportation” will be discussed at the retreat “because as you realise that transportation is key to the integration process and we have to make sure that we get it right this time around”.

Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller also has her own concerns as it relates to the ongoing relationship between Air Jamaica and Caribbean Airlines.

“We are looking forward to looking at some other things in terms of Jamaica,” she said, adding “I will not say now until I am absolutely sure what will happen.” (CMC)

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