Two sub-regional organizations which have Belize as a member—the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Central American Integration System (SICA)—have agreed to cement their institutional relationships and advance talks towards the formalization of a milestone trade agreement.

They have also passed a joint declaration to coordinate efforts in several other areas, including the economy, public security, environment, climate change and integrated disaster risk management, and social development.

The declaration to press forward with a trade agreement that covers the entire Central American and Caribbean region was passed on Friday, August 19, 2011, at the 3rd CARICOM-SICA Summit of Heads of State and Government hosted by the Central American Integration System (SICA) in San Salvador, El Salvador, where its headquarters is located.

Among the officials attending the event were Secretary-General of SICA – Juan Aleman, El Salvador Minister of Foreign Affairs – Hugo Martinez, CARICOM Chairman and Prime Minister of St. Kitts and Nevis – Dr. Denzil Douglas, Guyana Minister of Foreign Affairs – Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Prime Minister of Grenada – Tillman Thomas, Ambassador of Grenada to the United States – Gillian Bristol, Belize Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade – Wilfred Elrington, and Belize Deputy Prime Minister – Gaspar Vega.

“This meeting is taking place in a global environment of constant change and transition,” said Dr. Douglas, in speaking on CARICOM’s behalf. “Survival in such a context demands a commonality of ambition and vision to ensure the strategic positioning of our regions in the hemispheric and global arenas, through effective cooperation and collaboration.”

Douglas said the Summit should be remembered as the catalyst for connecting the Caribbean and Central America.

“It is vital in this regard, that we look closely at measures which will encourage and facilitate greater interaction between the people of our two regions at all levels—governmental, commercial, cultural and social,” Douglas said.

He pointed to successful collaboration in cross-regional commercial ventures in the fields of telecommunications, air transportation and the distributive trade sectors.

The joint declaration issued at the end of the meeting instructs the Ministers responsible for foreign trade and economy to resume discussions, so that they can conclude a trade agreement between CARICOM and SICA.

The conditions for the agreement were set out in the joint declaration of the Second Summit of Heads of State and Government, held in May 2007. The new regional agreement is to be set against the backdrop of the current Free Trade Agreement between Costa Rica and CARICOM.

They have also agreed to instruct the ministers responsible for foreign trade and economy, to promote the use of appropriate business forums and trade fairs to foster a better understanding of the economies of both sub-regions.

With respect to combating transnational organized crime—including drug trafficking, illicit trafficking of weapons, human trafficking, and terrorist acts—the leaders say their states are to “promote the adoption of coordinated initiatives between our specialized sub-regional institutions...”

The Central American and Caribbean secretariats are looking towards the harmonization of approaches towards “strategic security plans.”

The joint declaration also affirms that the nations of Central America and the Caribbean would adopt and defend common positions in international fora; in particular, within the UN, the OAS and the Meeting of Ministers of Public Security in the Americas, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago in November 2011.

Also of note is the decision to instruct the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) and the Center of Coordination for the Prevention of Natural Disasters in Central America (CEPREDENAC) to exchange information, experiences and training on integrated disaster risk management.

The Caribbean leaders said that they welcome Panama’s initiative to establish a Regional Humanitarian Assistance Logistic Centre, which should respond to emergencies in the region within 24 to 48 hours. The Center should have international support.

CARICOM is to host the next joint meeting of Central America and the Caribbean, details of which are to be announced later.