Pubdate: Thur, 11 Mar 1999
Source: Associated Press
Copyright: 1999 Associated Press
Author: BERT WILKINSON  Associated Press Writer


GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) Caribbean leaders said Thursday that a weekend
decision to review a treaty to help the United States fight drug trafficking
was a message aimed at getting Washington to back off in a trade dispute.

"We are sending an important signal to the U.S., by deciding to review the
accord," Sir James Mitchell, prime minister of St. Vincent and the
Grenadines said of a move at the semi-annual summit of 15-member Caribbean

"The accord draws an inextricable link between trade, economic development,
security and prosperity," Denzil Douglas, prime minister of St. Kitts and
Nevis, said. "The U.S. agreed not to do anything to undermine the economic
well-being of the Caribbean."

Douglas said the "review" did not amount to a suspension of the treaty, as
some have interpreted. "Some (countries) wanted to suspend it, but in the
end we agreed to a review," he said.

The treaty, signed in Barbados by President Bill Clinton in 1997, calls for
cooperation by Caribbean nations in anti-drug trafficking measures and
extradition of suspects. But regional leaders have increasingly complained
that Washington has ignored its end of the bargain by failing to address
economic issues.

Caribbean leaders are especially incensed over U.S. efforts to get the World
Trade Organization to revoke preferences given by some European countries to
former colonies in the Caribbean.

Washington says the preferences hurt U.S.-owned producers with huge
plantations in Central and South America. The Caribbean leaders say they are
critical to keeping their banana industry and other agriculture viable
during a difficult period.

Mitchell said Thursday that the region's leaders would decide on any further
action at a full summit in July. "We are certainly going to look at (the
treaty) again, review this thing again. But there is a lot of time between
now and July a lot of things can happen," he said in a telephone interview.

Smaller Caribbean producers stress that their produce makes up only 1
percent of the world market and say they cannot compete with the larger
Latin American plantations.

The dispute escalated last week as the United States ordered importers to
deposit funds to cover pending sanctions on $520 million worth of targeted
goods imported from the European Union. Caribbean nations joined the
European Union in charging that the sanctions were illegal.

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MAP posted-by: Don Beck