The government of Trinidad and Tobago declined to join PetroCaribe, the trade initiative established by Venezuela, to assist Caribbean community countries in meeting their energy requirements in the face of price increases on the global oil market.
Prime Minister Patrick Manning said his administration would not sign the PetroCaribe initiative, as his country remains committed to the rival Free Trade Area of the Americas.
“We have convinced our Caricom colleagues to make Trinidad and Tobago the FTAA headquarters,” Manning said. “They had gone out together with us to convince the Western Hemisphere system of this. How in the face of that could we now go and sign on to an agreement that scuttles the FTAA?”
Manning said the PetroCaribe initiative introduces a new trade structure that Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez is promoting to be known as the Bolivaria for the Americas.
“The PetroCaribe agreement is part of a more comprehensive set of prescriptions that Venezuela is advancing in competition to the established Western Hemisphere system. They have proposed the Bolivaria for the Americas instead of the Free Trade Area of the Americas,” Manning said.
Apart from Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados is the only other Caricom state that has not signed the PetroCaribe accord, while others have embraced the pact with enthusiasm.
A recent statement by the Belize government, which will host the sixth PetroCaribe summit, said, “PetroCaribe has proven to be more than a trade mechanism for oil supply and currently constitutes a strategic framework for energy security also including cooperation to ensure efficiency and savings in the generation, distribution, and consumption of energy.”
The Belize statement said the role of PetroCaribe also is an “ongoing creation by the Caribbean nations for an efficient subregional energy scheme, involving additional oil refining, storage, and transport capacity, an infrastructure for natural gas export, import and processing, as well as education and training programs for energy industry personnel.”
In early January, Balwin Spencer, the prime minister of Antigua & Barbuda, said that member states of the Petrocaribe association in the Eastern Caribbean would use an existing facility in his country to store and distribute fuel, instead of using installations in Venezuela.
Spencer said Antigua & Barbuda would acquire all of the outstanding shares in West Indies Oil Co. (WIOC) that it needs to be able to control an effective and efficient deposit and distribution center in the region. Reports say the installations belonging to WIOC can accommodate some 322,000 bbl of oil.
Earlier Spencer said the member states of Petrocaribe had been examining short-term and medium-term plans to improve and expand a port terminal in northeastern Venezuela to meet the needs of the eastern Caribbean.