April 25, 2004 United Nation's officials came to St. Croix last week to discuss how new, free-trade initiatives and new technologies will affect the Caribbean economy. V. I. officials also took advantage of the two-day conference to promote St. Croix.
Gov. Charles W. Turnbull is the chairperson of the United Nations Caribbean Development and Cooperation Committee, which wrapped up a two-day conference on St. Croix Friday night.
Turnbull, in an interview Friday, explained that the committee concentrates on economic and social issues, tourism, and the exchange of ideas. The organization promotes cooperation among the Caribbean countries to improve the quality of life in the region. Caribbean countries are considered part of the Latin America region. Turnbull said the conference has kept the delegates busy, but the delegates were able to visit towns and have dinner at several restaurants.
"It is an honor to have the delegates in St. Croix," said Turnbull. "They have been impressed with the island and the hospitality. We want to host more conferences like this on St. Croix."
Carlyle Corbin is the Virgin Islands representative for external affairs and also the ministerial chairman of this United Nation's committee. He said this meeting of Caribbean governments and UN agencies set priorities on issues that relate directly to the region. Some of the issues that were addressed included the free trade area of the Americas and its impact on the economies of the hemisphere. Also under discussion, according to Corbin, were the World Summit on Information and its impact on the development of small economies.
Corbin said being a part of the information society is very important for this territory. "We need to move forward into the digital age." He explained that an economy based in so many respects on services needs experts in the area of technology to remain competitive.
Corbin also recognized the positive impact the conference had on the St. Croix economy. "We are promoting St. Croix as a site for conferences," Corbin said. He remarked that the visiting officials were high-level individuals. They were encouraged to spend the weekend on St. Croix after the conference ended.
The conference was held in the Divi Carina Bay Resort and Casino on the eastern end of the island. At the end of the conference, the dignitaries were treated to a cocktail reception hosted by the government house.
But more than the service industries were being promoted during the conference.
Percival Edwards, St. Croix Farmers in Action president, saw the conference as an opportunity for international networking to promote the historical and agricultural aspects of St. Croix. "It is key that we encourage more dialogue. The free-trade agreement will go into effect next year. We must be ready to compete or else we can be completely phased out," Edwards said.
Edwards said St. Croix could play an important role in the trade of goods throughout the Caribbean. "We can be a hub to export products with a U.S. stamp on it," he said.
The committee is a permanent subsidiary of the UN's Economic Commission of Latin America and the Caribbean, one of the UN's five regional commissions. The commission was founded to contribute to the economic development of the region.
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