Private investment key to Caribbean aid plan
Private investment is the key element in the Reagan administration's soon-to-be-announced Caribbean assistance package. While the program will include United States government aid, along with assistance from Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela, the package now being drafted puts special emphasis on private trade and investment incentives.
Details of the Caribbean initiative, which has been in the making for two months, are expected to be disclosed in early July. State Department officials say that under the terms of the program the US expects the countries of the Caribbean to provide "a good climate for foreign investment" with safeguards for the investments.
In return, the Reagan administration will open up the US market to manufactured items from the Caribbean region and allow more Carribean agricultural products into the US.
The program is designed to reduce the region's high unemployment and to improve living standards. By improving Caribbean economies, the US hopes to combat Marxist and Cuban influence in the region while strengthening ties with the US, Mexico, Canada, and Venezuela.
Some aspects of the initiative involving Mexico were discussed during Mexican President Jose Lopez Portillo's recent visit to Washington. Canada and Venezuela are being kept closely informed on the planning as well.
Planners envision that donor countries will choose the nations each wants to assist. But there will be coordination through an organization representing donor nations.
Although the Reagan administration is eager to develop the program in order to combat Cuban influence in the Caribbean and in Central America, the program will probably open the door to some form of Cuban participation. Washington appears ready to accept such a Cuban role.
Mexican President Lopez Portillo, whose government has friendly ties with Cuba, made clear to President Reagan last week that any Caribbean plan his country supports must not exclude Cuba, the largest nation in the Caribbean.
Thus, Mexico could work out an aid program with Cuba under terms of the overall program even though Washington does not have formal diplomatic ties with the government of Fidel Castro and maintains a trade embargo against Cuba.
While the US will emphasize private investment, Mexico and Venezuela will probably favor public assis tance.