Inter-American Economic Council spearheads effort to resolve Caribbean port security issue

The Inter-American Economic Council recently led a fact finding Mission by Members of the House Congressional Caribbean Caucus to the St. Lucia and Antigua and Barbuda. In a press conference in Washington, DC, Council President Barry S. Featherman noted that many public and private sectors leaders expressed concern about new security requirements that will enter into force in the U.S. on July 1, 2004. Under the new regulations ship and air carriers will have to certify that these facilities meet the International Maritime Security and Port Facility Code (ISPS) prior to July 1. In the absence of certification, they will be “blacklisted” and all air and sea links to and from these islands and the U.S. will be severed. This could be particularly detrimental to the small vulnerable economies of the Eastern Caribbean and to trade with the United States. The United States has a favorable balance of trade with the Caribbean and in the absence of certification the region will lose its ability to trade with one of its major trading partner. This would have a negative effect on U.S. and Caribbean Companies. The Council firmly believes that the new regulations are important for U.S. Security Interests.

Furthermore, as an organization committed to promoting trade integration and economic development in the Caribbean, the Council believes that it is critical to work with Caribbean Governments, and Funding Agencies to bring Caribbean Ports into compliance with the new requirements. At the same time it would be worthwhile to provide an extension to the compliance deadline so that the Caribbean is not shut out of trade with the U.S. The Council has sent representatives to the Meetings of the Inter- American Committee on Ports in Miami to raise this issue and the Council President attended a meeting on Terrorism in the Hemisphere with the Chairman of the Senate Western Hemisphere SubCommittee Senator Norm Coleman, along with representatives of the State Department and Members of the Committee Staff.

The Council will begin to organize briefings on Capitol Hill and with representatives of the Departments of Transportation, the State Department, the Inter-American Development Bank, and Caribbean Governments to ensure compliance with U.S. Regulations and the free flow of trade without interruption. The Council firmly believes in the Third Border Initiative and will work to make Americas Border safe and productive. The Council is working meticulously to facilitate action on these issues.