The Cayman Islands Government continued pressing for a level playing field in financial services on behalf of the Overseas Countries and Territories during a just-concluded meeting with the European Union in Brussels.
In addition, Minister for International Financial Services Policy Alden McLaughlin called on the European Commission to give public recognition to achievements of these countries and territories in financial regulation, exchange of information, and transparency, states a GIS press release.
Mr. McLaughlin led a four-person Cayman team to the 4th Overseas Countries and Territories – EU Forum, held in Brussels, 5 to 7 December. The forum was attended for the first time by the European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid Louis Michel.
In the face of the EU’s (and a number of international organisations’) requests in recent years for changes in the way many OCTs conduct financial business, Cayman has been calling for such targeted territories to be put on the same level as EU member countries and other groupings.
Mr. McLaughlin pressed the European Commission for public recognition of the achievements of financial jurisdictions within the OCT that have met the various requirements placed on their financial operations.
Cayman’s concerns, voiced through several interventions by Mr. McLaughlin, were somewhat addressed when Deputy Head of the Overseas Territories Department of the FCO Fraser Wilson delivered remarks to the Forum on behalf of Lord Triesman, UK Parliamentary Under Secretary of State. He acknowledged in particular the progress made by the OCTs in the area of exchange of information and transparency in the context of financial services.
The criteria for access to EU development funds, which currently ignore vulnerability in favour of per capita GDP, were among key issues raised by OCT members. It was argued that the system of determining eligibility for this aid means that some territories, such as Cayman and the BVI, are inappropriately excluded.
Other issues related to funding concerned burdensome access procedures and slow disbursement.
Mr. McLaughlin was assured that the approval process for granting of hurricane relief funds to Cayman was well underway, and disbursement could be within the first quarter of 2006. At the Forum OCT members also voiced their concerns on aspects of the relationship with the European Economic Commission and discussed regional priorities.
Talks also covered regional integration; trade, transhipment and rules of origin; and financial services. These issues are being substantively addressed in Partnership Working Parties involving the Commission, the OCTs and the relevant EU Members States.
In his address to the Forum, Commissioner Michel committed to ensuring that the Commission improved its end of the EU/OCT partnership. The Commissioner’s sentiments were echoed by the head of his services’ office, Director-General Stefano Manservisi, during his address. As a start to improving relations, the Commissioner is to convene a high-level meeting with the OCT Association in January 2006.
During the course of the OCTA talks, reports from the various PWPs were discussed and elections held for the 2006 OCTA Executive and Chairman of the 2006 Ministerial meeting. The Ministerial Chair passed from the BVI to Greenland and the Executive remained the same except for the Vice-Presidency, to which Greenland was voted. The Cayman Islands remains as Secretary. The OCTA also welcomed the admission of Pitcairn as a member.
The 2006 OCT-EU Forum will be held in Nuuk Greenland in September. OCT attendance at OCT-EU forums is substantially funded by the EU.
‘These meetings confirm my thinking that the Cayman Islands’ interests are best served by constructive participation in the international fora open to us,’ Mr. McLaughlin said. ‘You can’t even begin to win if you don’t play.’
Along with team leader Mr. McLaughlin, the Cayman Islands delegation included Deborah Drummond, Deputy Financial Secretary (Financial Services); Christina Rowlandson, Policy Analyst, Cabinet Office; and Kate Kandiah, Personal Assistant to the Cayman Islands Government representative in London and OCTA Secretary.