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Sandals proud of its place in Caricom history

CARICOM –The current discussion among Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders, now huddled in Montego Bay, about the region’s continued participation in free trade talks in the current global economic crisis has revived memories of December 1965.

This was when the Caribbean Free Trade Association (CARIFTA) was established with the signing of the historic Dickenson Bay Agreement in Antigua.

It was the first attempt at a CARIFTA agreement and was signed by Antigua, Barbados and Guyana at the then Anchorage hotel, which is now Sandals Antigua.

The agreement, which was similar in structure to the pact establishing the European Free Trade Association in 1960, was aimed at:

• promoting the expansion and diversification of trade in the area of the association;

• ensuring that trade between member territories takes place in conditions of fair competition;

• encouraging the progressive development of the economies of the area; and

• fostering the harmonious development of Caribbean trade and its liberalisation by the removal of barriers.

The three signatories — Barbados’ Errol Barrow, Guyana’s Forbes Burnham and Antigua and Barbuda’s Vere Bird — have all passed on. But within three years of signing the Dickenson Bay accord, they had the satisfaction of being joined in 1968 by Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica for the ceremonial launch of CARIFTA that paved the way for Caricom’s inauguration five years later.

At the 29th regular Community summit in Antigua and Barbuda in 2008, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer invited his colleague Heads of Government to return to Dickenson Bay “to reflect on Caricom priorities, including immediate challenges as well as on medium and long-term strategies”.

In an article published at the time, Observer Caribbean correspondent Rickey Singh highlighted the fact that none of today’s Caricom Heads of Government was even a parliamentarian at the time of the signing of the CARIFTA.

The group met at the now popular Sandals Antigua resort, which says it feels a sense of satisfaction at being at the centre of one of the Caribbean’s most historic moments.

Sandals has always trumpeted its Caribbean heritage and has been widely acknowledged for promoting the region in the international travel trade.

The hotel chain operates 20 resorts in five islands across the Caribbean.

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