Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has expressed the view that the recent talks the CARICOM Heads of Government had with the United States Vice-President, Joe Biden, were useful to this region.
Stuart participated in a meeting between the CARICOM heads, the President of the Dominican Republic, Danilo Medina S√nchez, and Biden, on May 28, in Trinidad and Tobago.
The Prime Minister described the summit as preparatory, saying it was designed to lay the foundation for an upcoming meeting with the heads and the president of the US, Barack Obama.
“The vice-president, of course, came to hear how CARICOM leaders perceived the relationship with the United States … and how we thought that the USA could more effectively help CARICOM countries in meeting some of the challenges which these countries have been facing.
“That exchange, therefore, was useful. The vice-president committed the United States again to being a friendly neighbour and a friendly partner with the English-speaking Caribbean… I think we gained by having that interaction; I think vice-president Biden understands the Caribbean better and I think we understand the United States better, so I think there is enhanced mutual understanding,” he surmised.
Stuart pointed out that regional security was on their agenda, including the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, into which the US had put substantial funds. He explained that this initiative had been announced by Obama at the Summit of the Americas in Port-of-Spain a few years ago.
“And, what we have been trying to do is to operationalise the aid for security matters which is available under the CBSI … because vice-president Biden recognises that a secure Caribbean means a secure USA, a Caribbean that is at risk means a US that is at risk [and] he was quite explicit in his recognition of that fact,” the Prime Minister said.
He stressed though that other developmental issues facing the Caribbean were addressed in those discussions, including the role Information and Communication Technology would play in the deepening of the US and English-speaking Caribbean relationship.
“The fact [is] that we now have in place a Caribbean Knowledge [and] Learning Network and Caribnet … to facilitate contact between Caribbean people and to connect them with other parts of the world, including the United States.
“The vice-president was quite interested in that and of course pledged to assist the region in whatever ways possible to consolidate these achievements and to lay a proper foundation for a greater interaction between the United States and the English-speaking Caribbean,” Stuart stated.
During the meeting, the officials also discussed trade and investment climates that promote growth, human and social development, and access to clean, reliable and affordable energy.
A new CARICOM-US Trade and Investment Framework Agreement was signed by Biden and CARICOM’s chairman, Michel Martelly, who is the president of Haiti.
This agreement seeks to, among other things, promote international trade and investment and strengthen economic relations between the parties, encourage and facilitate relationships between enterprises and private sector groups in the US and Member States of CARICOM, and take into account the desirability of reducing non-tariff trade barriers to facilitate greater access to their markets.