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CARICOM Summit to Focus on European-Style Economic Bloc - 2003-07-03


Caribbean Community leaders are meeting in Jamaica for their annual summit, which will cover a plan to unite the region into a single economic bloc.

The heads of government from all 15 CARICOM member nations opened their four-day summit Wednesday in the north coast resort town of Montego Bay. They were joined by South African President Thabo Mbeki, who arrived in Jamaica Sunday on a three-day state visit.

Jamaican news reports say the leaders will debate the challenges facing the region in its bid to create a European-style trade bloc by 2005. The CARICOM grouping would coincide with a planned Free Trade Area of the Americas, which is also slated for completion the same year.

The hemispheric trade zone has been a policy priority of the United States. Thirty four countries, excluding Cuba, would be part of the zone.

Summit participants also are expected to discuss a U-S decision to suspend military aid to countries that refuse to exempt Americans from prosecution by the International Criminal Court in the Hague.

Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, Dominica, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and Trinidad and Tobago are among the 35 countries facing a U.S. aid cutoff for supporting the international court.