Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Heads of Government will meet for their 37th Regular Meeting on 4-6 July 2016, in Georgetown, Guyana, at the Guyana Pegasus Hotel. In the search for opportunities and regional solutions to challenges, the Meeting will advance matters pertaining to regional security – economic and otherwise; and the social well being of the approximately 16 million people who make up the Caribbean Community.
As expected, Correspondent Banking is among the top agenda issues before the highest decision making forum of the regional grouping of 15 Members and five Associate States.
CARICOM, and indeed the Caribbean as a whole, is concerned about this issue. If all correspondent banking relations are withdrawn, the region will be isolated from the rest of the world and will be unable to carry out some of the most basic of bank transactions. Critical services including remittance transfers, international trade, and the facilitation of credit card settlements for local clients, among other services, will be affected.
The genesis of this issue lies in the signal by several international banks, mainly in the US and Europe, to client banks in the Region of an unwillingness to continue carrying their business, as part of a so-titled “de-risking” strategy. The Caribbean has been labeled as a tax haven and accused of lax tax regimes and avenues for money laundering and terrorism financing, despite no evidence to prove this.
At their Inter-sessional meeting in Belize, Heads “emphasized that Member States have complied with all global regulatory standards, including those established by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) and the Global Forum, and have been scrutinized in every detail by the IMF and other multilateral institutions”. They deemed the action by the correspondent banks, “as an economic assault” tantamount to an economic blockade against Member States.
But CARICOM is fighting back. Using the power of the collective, they have appointed a high level advocacy group, led by the Prime Minister of Antigua and Barbuda, Hon. Gastown Browne, to represent the interests of the Region in addressing the issue, including approaches to the UN, the WTO and the US Government.
The Meeting will take stock of actions to date, and seek to advance the search for solutions to this matter.