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Hon. Pickering's speaks at the 10th OCT-EU Forum in Brussels

Hon. Pickering [second from left] with other members at the meeting. Photo: London Office
ROAD TOWN, Tortola, VI - Deputy Premier Dr. Kedrick Pickering is currently in Brussels, Belgium where he is delivered an address at the 10th OCT-EU Forum on January 24, 2012.

Below is his full statement:

Commissioner, Ministers, Heads of Government, fellow heads of delegations, delegates, friends and colleagues.

I am delighted to convey to you the good wishes for the success of this 10th OCT-EU Forum from the Premier of the British Virgin Islands, Dr. D. Orlando Smith OBE, as well as the entire government and the people of the BVI. I would like to thank the Commission for hosting this year’s meeting and for maintaining an active interest in the Overseas Countries and Territories.

In my remarks this afternoon I wish to build on the support already provided by the BVI in the period leading up to the Forum during which we served as Acting President of OCTA and contributed to discussions in tripartite and Partnership Working Party meetings with the EU and Member States on the future relationship between the EU and OCTs.

The BVI welcomes the EU’s revision of the OAD. Since its adoption in 2001, conditions in the world have changed significantly and even more so since the global financial crisis in 2008. Adjustments are now needed to renew and strengthen our relationship and to make it a more balanced partnership.

We strongly believe that the future OAD has to address the need to improve OCTs’ economic competitiveness and environmental sustainability, both with a view toward reducing OCTs overall vulnerability as Small Island States.

We are particularly keen on provisions related to trade in the future OAD that would be beneficial to us as we take steps to diversity our economy, both within and outside of financial services and tourism. At the top of our agenda is strengthening and expanding our small business sector and developing non-financial services trade.

The future OAD must also fill the gap in environmental cooperation left by the 2001 Decision. The document’s text does not include much meaningful language on the environment, particularly in the context of Small Islands States such as the BVI. A new OAD should include articles that cover OCT-EU cooperation on disaster risk reduction, climate change adaptation, biodiversity preservation, renewable energy development, conservation management, waste management and maritime marine management. There should also be built-in safeguards to protect OCTs’ environmental assets from exploitation, even where it concerns well intentioned programmes such as the BEST scheme.

Turning away from the OAD, I would like to take this opportunity to acknowledge and thank the EU for the financial support and technical assistance provided to the BVI for a range of projects, including the Regional Risk Reduction Initiative, National HIV/AIDS programme, Culinary Arts Centre, Conservation Management Project; and the forthcoming Territorial Strategies for Innovation Project and Small and Medium Enterprise initiative, also referred to as the SME project.

The SME project that will come on stream later this year, which is a welcome regional initiative involving both the British and Dutch Caribbean OCTs. The BVI is the Deputy Regional Authorising Officer or DRAO for this project under the 10th European Development Fund. Its aim is to strengthen intermediaries that provide support to small and medium sized businesses. By building up the capacity of these intermediaries, local enterprises will have greater access to technical assistance in developing, managing and implementing strategies and mechanisms to grow their business that will in turn strengthen our economies.

In coordinating this project, the BVI is seeking closer cooperation between all the participating OCTs. As a group we committed to forming an Overseas Countries and Territories Council of the Caribbean at the 9th EU-OCT Forum in New Caledonia through which to coordinate the SME project’s activities and various other issues of mutual interest. I am pleased to report that we have circulated for review a draft MOU to the designated Territorial Authorising Officers for consideration. In addition, Curaco has been nominated the project’s Deputy to the DRAO on behalf of the Dutch OCTs.

In addition to the SME project, we are also looking forward to this year’s launch of the Territorial Strategies for Innovation project. We have high expectations for this initiative that is designed to help boost OCTs’ global competitiveness through innovation.

Before I conclude, I would like to make a few brief remarks on financial services. The BVI is a leading and highly respected international financial centre. We believe that our success in financial services hinges on our adherence to international standards of regulation, transparency and exchange of information. These standards have been regularly acknowledged by international standard setting bodies such as the International Monetary Fund, Financial Action Task Force and Financial Stability Board.

We will continue to promote our financial services industry and to reiterate our call for a level playing field globally. We would welcome the EU’s recognition of this and support on the issue. We would also value an assurance that the new criteria for assessing the Common Understanding on Third Country Equivalence by the Member States at the EU Committee on the Prevention of Money Laundering and Terrorist Financing, will be applied objectively.

Ladies and gentlemen, I am grateful for your patience look forward to hearing from the remainder of my OCT colleagues. Thank you.

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