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T&T minister vows to find solution to problem affecting J'cans

BY ALICIA DUNKLEY-WILLIS Senior staff reporter dunkleya@jamaicaobserver.com

Tuesday, December 03, 2013    

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TRINIDAD and Tobago's Foreign Minister Winston Dookeran says a 'trade war' with Jamaica will cause both countries to suffer and so his Government is interested in finding a solution to the current stand-off following on the incident in which 13 Jamaicans were refused entry and deported from the twin-island republic.

Noting that the issue which prompted calls for a boycott of Trinidadian-produced goods and a banning of imports was an "inflamed nerve", which both countries must address, Dookeran told a press conference arranged by the Jamaican Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade in New Kingston yesterday, that while "troubling", the matters are not beyond the capabilities of both countries to solve and find the appropriate solutions.

"I have come here on the invitation of your good self and your Government to open this dialogue, to listen to what these concerns are, to identify the nerve that has been inflamed and to see how we can together work towards remedying or getting the cure for that nerve. It is of no benefit to you or to us to allow a trade war to develop. Both our countries will suffer in terms of investment, employment and building our own productive capability," Minister Dookeran stated.

"I am very aware of the fact that a nerve has somehow been ignited in the relationship between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. I am aware that this inflamed nerve must be addressed, and whatever solutions must be applied must be applied in order to cure that inflamed nerve. That nerve links between the supermarkets in Jamaica to the immigration authorities in Piarco and we are very much concerned about how that inflamed nerve has now transcended into a wider issue," he said.

The two-day visit, arranged at the invitation of the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator A J Nicholson, saw consultations between Dookeran, his delegation and a number of Jamaican stakeholders, including private sector interests.

In the meantime, the Trinidad and Tobago foreign minister said the interaction with the private sector was a meeting of great insights. "I heard from them detailed and practical ways that this problem we are about to address can be addressed. I entertained those thoughts with a great sense of humility, because these are the people on the ground, they know what is happening and we would want to ensure that we satisfy those on the ground," Dookeran said.

In the meantime, Senator Nicholson said the treatment meted out to Jamaicans at Piarco International Airport and the sharp increase in the number of Jamaicans being returned from Trinidad and Tobago have together generated considerable public outrage, particularly in the wake of the Shanique Myrie ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The Jamaican foreign minister said the issue had affected confidence in the regional integration movement and diminished goodwill on the part of many Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora towards Trinidad and Tobago. Furthermore, he noted that it has threatened to change patterns of consumption in Jamaica.

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