PM speaks on recent meeting with Trump

Thursday, May 02, 2019

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PRIME Minister Andrew Holness says the recent meeting with President of the United States of America Donald Trump and several Caribbean leaders provided a direct opportunity for the strengthening of bilateral and regional relationships.

On March 22, 2019, the leaders of five Caribbean countries – The Bahamas, Dominican Republic, Haiti, Jamaica, and St Lucia – met with President Trump, in Florida. The meeting was initiated by the United States.

Speaking in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, the prime minister said the meeting provided an opportunity for a different dialogue with leaders of the region and the president to explore ways of strengthening the bilateral and regional relationships and express and reaffirm the goodwill between the United States and the region.

The prime minister was replying to questions about the trip posed by Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Lisa Hanna.

Holness said the context of the meeting was the wider Caribbean and not specific to Caricom, adding that the invitation was extended on a bilateral basis; nevertheless, the meeting provided an opportunity to address issues relevant to Caricom member states.

The prime minister said the meeting with President Trump focused more on high-level discussions.

“The president wanted to hear the leaders' perspectives on a range of issues, including the current economic outlook from each country in attendance and for the region generally; areas in which the US could offer greater support; the situation in Venezuela; and the respective perspectives of the leaders who attended, on Cuba,” he said.

Holness said specific concerns were raised by Caribbean leaders about the importance of tourism to the region and the extremely dampening effects that travel advisories and warnings had on visitor arrivals from the North American market.

“The president took a particular interest in this matter and asked that it be looked into,” he said.

He said a greater role for the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC) in the region was also discussed as a way to increase investment and support for strategic development imperatives of the region, particularly in energy and infrastructure.

Holness pointed out that Jamaica is already working on a cooperation programme with the United States through the Treasury Department, in this regard.

He said all leaders present expressed concern over the situation in Venezuela and support for a peaceful and sustainable solution to return the country to a stable democracy.

The prime minister informed that before the meeting with President Trump, the invited leaders had a working meeting with US national security advisor Ambassador John Bolton.

He said detailed discussions were had on a range of subjects, including national security and protecting the maritime space of the region through greater support with assets and information sharing, disaster management and resilience building within the context of increased frequency and intensity of weather events, and an increased role in the region for the redefined OPIC.

Also discussed were blacklisting, derisking and potential loss of correspondent banking services in Caribbean countries; extension of the Caribbean Basin Initiative; the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act, which allows continued one-way duty-free access for Caribbean goods into the US market beyond 2019; energy security and stronger economic cooperation; and the situation in Venezuela.

Meanwhile, the prime minister said Jamaica has not given any commitment to the USA that it will be a party to any activity to change the current Government in Venezuela.

He said on receiving the invitation, the Government reviewed the context of the proposed meeting and the invitation and concluded that the meeting was in keeping with the country's policy objective to ensure Jamaica remains a relevant leader and influential voice in the region, and the meeting provided an opportunity for Jamaica to discuss its security and economic interest with its largest trading partner and security partner.

“There was strong sentiment among regional leaders that the US had not been paying enough attention to the Caribbean as the third border of the United States,” he said.

— JIS


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