PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad – Tropical Storm Bret, the second named storm of the 2017 hurricane season, has started to show signs of development off the coast of Guyana in South America.

June storms normally tend to develop further north, usually off the Yucatan Peninsula in the Gulf of Mexico or off the southeast US coast.

This portion of the Atlantic Basin is an unusual place for storms to develop this early in the season.

Tropical Storm Bret is just one of the few tropical systems that have formed this month in the open Atlantic.

The system’s development is also somewhat rare because it formed further south than most tropical cyclones around the world.

Early on Monday, Bret started to strengthen and move towards the west-northwest, leading it on a path very close to the island of Trinidad and Tobago.

The Trinidad and Tobago Guardian reported early Tuesday morning that “gusty winds and torrential showers began pounding the eastern swath of Trinidad last night and there were reports of fallen trees, power lines, roofs torn off and flash flooding as citizens battened down for the full might of Tropical Storm Bret”.

Early on Tuesday, the storm passed just to the south of Trinidad and Tobago, but was still bringing heavy rain and damaging winds to much of the island.

PHILADELPHIA – The United States Customs and Border Protection (CBP) agency says officers have seized US$39,225 from a Jamaica-bound traveller at the Philadelphia International Airport.

On Monday, the CBP said the unidentified female traveller initially reported that she possessed less than US$10,000.

After CBP officers thoroughly explained the currency reporting requirements, she wrote down that she possessed US$20,000, but a CBP inspection revealed US$39,225.

“This currency seizure illustrates the importance and consequences of travellers complying with all US laws, including currency reporting regulations,” said Shawn Polley, Acting CBP Port Director for the Area Port of Philadelphia.

“The best way to keep all of your currency is to honestly report it all to a to Customs and Border Protection officers during inspection,” he added.

The traveler was not criminally charged and was allowed to continue her journey to Jamaica.

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – New regional carrier Trans Island Air (TIA) has hit back at Minister of Tourism Richard Sealy’s suggestion that conditions in the travel business are rough for new airlines in the Caribbean to survive.

In a statement issued over the weekend, TIA rejected the argument that new entrants could not make it and that LIAT’s position was unique because of the financial support provided by its shareholder governments, including Barbados.

TIA’s official high-profile launch last Wednesday in St Lucia was aborted by weather conditions in Barbados which prevented many of the new airline’s officials, including owner Bruce Kaufman and Minister of Commerce Donville Inniss, from leaving Grantley Adams International Airport (GAIA).

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – The Hubs and Spokes Programme, an innovative trade initiative for expanding opportunities for business, employment and prosperity in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, is to be extended until February 2019.

Through the Programme, which is a joint initiative of the European Union (EU), ACP Group Secretariat, Commonwealth Secretariat and Organisation Internationale de la Francophonie (OIF), trade advisers are placed in government ministries and regional organisations to provide support and build local capacity to develop trade policies.

With 2017 shaping up to be an uncertain year for global trade, Chekou Oussouman, head of the Hub and Spokes Programme at the OIF, says the long-term technical assistance provided by the programme has given credibility to the partnership among the Commonwealth, OIF, European Commission and the ACP Secretariat which have responded to requests from the ACP regions for the deployment of a network of high-level advisers on trade policies.

“Beyond the reforms undertaken to make trade a lever for growth and successful structural transformation, several countries and regions have been involved in the ownership of the programme’s efforts and have also contributed to the financing of activities,” according to Oussouman.

“Thus, the consolidation phase of the programme will enable key structuring activities to be transferred appropriately to the beneficiaries.”

The first stage of the programme, Hub and Spokes I, ran from 2004 to 2012. The second phase, Hub and Spokes II, ended on 27 May 2017. The new consolidation phase will extend the programme until at least February 2019.

To kick-start the ambitious next phase of the aid for trade programme, 40 of the programme’s main stakeholders, including 16 trade advisers, held a workshop here from May 22 to 23, giving participants the opportunity to review the changing trade landscape, exchange best practices and establish a sustainable foundation for the design of national and regional trade policies.

Commonwealth Deputy Secretary-General Deodat Maharaj said the Caribbean workshop presented an ideal opportunity to learn from regional experiences to ensure that developing countries and small and vulnerable states are not left behind.

“The Hub and Spokes programme is helping countries to use trade as a mechanism to advance human development and create prosperity,” said Maharaj. “It has been an invaluable resource for Commonwealth member countries and in particular for small and capacity-constrained states.

“The work undertaken by these trade experts is second to none, ensuring that countries can effectively participate in global trade and that trade policies deliver on national development priorities.”

During the recent 8th ACP Heads of State and Government Summit, Dr. Mukhisa Kituyi, Secretary General of the UN Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), stressed the role of the developmental state in fostering trade and investment growth that is inclusive, sustainable and equitable, including through empowering gender and youth.

Kituyi highlighted the powerful role of technology in connecting the rural poor to mainstream economic development and finance, including through mobile telephony.

He added that persistent and new challenges necessitate a fundamental re-thinking and re-positioning of ACP Group toward more intra-ACP trade, investment and political dialogue and collaboration and greater attention to South-South cooperation in general as a complement to the North-South relations that have dominated ACP attention since the formation of the group 40 years ago.

These included the rise of mega-regionals such as the Trans-Pacific Partnership agreement, decline in traditional preferences and transition towards more reciprocal agreements such as Economic Partnership Agreements, and the challenge of migration faced by traditional donor partners like the EU.

Such intra-ACP revival is all the more important to harness and unleash the combined economic knowledge, skills, resources and cultures of ACP states to face up to the challenge of implementing Agenda 2030 and the Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs).

Closer ACP collaboration is particularly apt in the case of LDCs and Small Island Developing States in addressing global challenge of climate change, rising sea levels and natural disasters and putting in place development strategies that are climate friendly and environmentally resilient.

Six regional advisers – the hubs – and 16 national advisers – the spokes – are currently deployed by the Commonwealth Secretariat under the Hub and Spokes Programme.

The OIF has also deployed 4 hubs and 16 spokes in Africa, resulting in a total of 10 hubs and 32 spokes deployed under the programme.

Advisers are placed in the following countries and regional organisations:

Caribbean: Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, St Vincent & the Grenadines, Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat and Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) Secretariat;

Eastern and Central Africa: Botswana, Kenya, Lesotho, Malawi, Zambia, African Union (AU) Commission, Common Market for Eastern and Southern Africa (COMESA) Secretariat, East African Community (EAC) Secretariat and Southern African Development Community (SADC) Secretariat;

PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad – The Coast Guard pulled two bodies from the Gulf of Paria, off Port of Spain and San Fernando, on Saturday.

The police report that shortly after 8 a.m. (local time) they were informed that a body was seen floating in the water

The Coast Guard later recovered the body that has been identified as that of Lionel George, 86, of Port of Spain.

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