KINGSTON –– Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Dr Keith Rowley arrived in Jamaica Sunday at the start of a four-day official visit that Kingston and Port of Spain are hoping will help restore a broken friendship and cauterise the deep wounds between the two Caribbean Community (Caricom) states.
Dr Rowley, who is accompanied by his wife, Sharon, was met at the Norman Manley International Airport in Kingston by a welcoming party led by Prime Minister Andrew Holness and Foreign Minister Senator Kamina Johnson Smith.
Speaking with journalists shortly after Rowley’s plane touched down, Holness said the Trinidadian PM was here to engage in bilateral talks on areas of mutual interests.
“Tomorrow we will engage in discussions on trade, security and other areas of cooperation including culture,” Holness said. “So I’m looking forward to a successful visit, and at the end of it I’m looking forward to a stronger bilateral relationship between Jamaica and our largest trading partner within Caricom.”
Both leaders will also discuss the signing of a framework agreement and the establishment of a joint commission, currently under negotiation, to provide a structured medium for bilateral discussions and cooperation in areas of mutual interest.
A press release issued by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade (MFAFT) said the visit was taking place amidst much discourse on the regional integration process, its relevance, the lack of implementation of key commitments — including the obligations under the Caricom Single Market and Economy — and whether Caricom was delivering the economic benefits envisaged in the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas.
The MFAFT pointed out that Dr Rowley’s visit was also taking place at a time when Jamaica was seeking a more proactive and outward-looking engagement towards shaping the future of trade relations with Caricom and the Latin American region.
“Jamaica’s foreign policy must be aligned with its economic policy and as such, at the regional level, Jamaica must treat Caricom as an extension of its domestic market for the movement of goods, labour and capital, treating all factors equally,” the MFAFT said.
The foreign ministry release said it expected that the visit would demonstrate that it was possible and necessary to have mature state-to-state relations, “where states can agree on some issues, disagree on others, and work through their differences, while remaining partners and friends”.
Additionally, the visits of Jamaicans to Trinidad and vice versa indicate that the people-to-people connection remained strong as the MFAFT reported that, in 2015, some 12,875 nationals from Trinidad and Tobago were granted entry into Jamaica and for the same year 15,312 Jamaicans were granted entry into Trinidad and Tobago.
Dr Rowley will also meet with the chairman of the Caricom/CARIFORUM Review Commission, Bruce Golding; pay courtesy calls on Governor General Sir Patrick Allen, the Leader of the Opposition Portia Simpson Miller, the vice chancellor, University of the West Indies (UWI) Professor Sir Hilary Beckles and Nii Odunton, secretary general of the International Seabed Authortity (ISA). Afterwards, he will address the 22nd Session of the ISA general assembly at the Jamaica Conference Centre.
Dr Rowley will meet with the heads of private sector organisations and entities for discussions on trade and business development issues, where he could face stern criticisms from business leaders who have made known their dissatisfaction with Jamaica-T&T relations.
He will later meet with the vice chancellor and senior executives of the UWI members of the diaspora, and students from the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago. He will have a scheduled engagement with Trinidadian entrepreneurs in Jamaica.
His wife will visit the Women’s Centre of Jamaica, tour Devon House and the national gallery and, alongside Dr Rowley, will visit the Bob Marley Museum and Sabina Park to watch the match between Jamaica Tallawahs and Trinbago Knight Riders.