WASHINGTON, USA — Representatives of the government of the 15-nation Caribbean Community (CARICOM) were in full attendance at a round-table meeting on Tuesday, November 19, with members of the US Congress and senior representatives of major US banks, concerning the effects of de-risking and the withdrawal of Correspondent Banking Relations (CBRs), in the Caribbean.
The round-table was first proposed by Antigua and Barbuda’s prime minister, Gaston Browne, at last July’s meeting of CARICOM heads of government. Since then, Antigua and Barbuda’s ambassador to the US Sir Ronald Sanders, worked with Congresswoman, Maxine Waters, chair of the Committee on Financial Services of the US House of Representatives to make it a reality.
Senior Bankers from six major US banks and US Congress personal gathered with a delegation representing CARICOM at Capitol Hill in Washington, under the chairmanship of Congresswoman Waters.
The CARICOM team was led by prime minister Browne who is the lead head of government on financial matters.
Caribbean governments were represented by prime minister of Saint Lucia, Allen Chastanet; finance minister of Jamaica, Nigel Clarke, attorney-general and minister of legal affairs of Barbados, Dale Marshall; national security minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Stuart Young; and CARICOM secretary-general Irwin LaRocque.
Prime minister Browne told the meeting that the Caribbean and the US have “a mutuality of interests” which necessitated each side displaying active concern about the well-being of the other, including security.
In this regard, the Browne argued the process of de-risking which has led to a withdrawal of relations by some US banks from Caribbean banks, poses a serious threat to the region’s welfare, including its capacity to import goods from the US which totaled over US$13 billion last year, and is set to exceed this figure this year.
Representatives of the US banks indicated that they recognise the value of CBRs, not only in financial terms but in the critical role it plays in global trade, investment, and other financial services. They expressed a keen interest in overcoming the challenges posed by a regulatory environment in which banks are conscious in their decision-making, of the severe penalties for incidents of money laundering and terrorism financing. The banks made several helpful proposals on how this issue could be addressed.
In response, prime minister Browne pointed out that over the last ten years, US$26 billion has been imposed worldwide as fines for non-compliance with money laundering, but not one bank was located in the Caribbean.
US legislators expressed alarm at the effect on the Caribbean of de-risking and the loss of CBRs from US banks as well as the effect on US national security if the situation worsens. The round-table reached joint conclusions that the problem must be tackled urgently and at several levels. All participating groups at the meeting resolved to work on solutions that arose from the discussion.
Prime minister Browne expressed “great satisfaction” with the outcome of the meeting and the obvious commitment of US legislators and banks to work with the Caribbean on solutions. The prime minister told the meeting that what is required is “to build trust and confidence between correspondent banks in the US and respondent banks in the Caribbean in a transparent relationship”.
Congresswoman Waters declared that she and the US House Committee on Financial Services will remain engaged in the matter and are willing to take actions that may be necessary to preserve the mutual interests of the US and the Caribbean.