Answers to Lisa Hanna’s questions on visit to President Trump
Will the Prime Minister disclose the specifics of his recent meeting with President Trump of the United States at Mar-a-Lago?
On Friday March 22, 2019 the leaders of five Caribbean countries- Bahamas, Dominican Republic Haiti, Jamaica and St. Lucia – met with the President of the United States, Donald Trump in Palm Beach Florida. The meeting was initiated by the United States and I was invited to attend by the President of the United States. The Government of Jamaica reviewed the context of the proposed meeting and the invitation and concluded the following:
- The meeting was in keeping with our foreign policy objective to ensure that Jamaica remains a relevant leader and influential voice in this region,
- The meeting provided an opportunity for Jamaica to discuss our security and economic interests with our largest trading and security partner,
- There was strong sentiment among regional leaders that the United States had not been paying enough attention to the Caribbean as the “Third Border” of the United States. As Prime Minister and during my tenure as CARICOM Chairman, I had previously expressed this view publicly and in several fora, meetings and engagements with United States officials, including:
- the visit of the former Secretary of State Rex Tillerson,
- a side meeting with Vice President Pence at the Summit of the Americas in Peru,
- and during my visit to Washington where I met with several US Senate and Congressional leaders, including Marco Rubio, Chairman of the United States Senate Foreign Relations Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Maxine Waters, Chair of the House Financial Services Committee and other members of the Congressional Black Caucus.
The meeting therefore, provided an opportunity for direct dialogue between leaders of the region and the President of the United States, to explore ways of strengthening the bilateral and regional relationships and express and reaffirm the goodwill between the United States and the region.
- The context of the meeting was the wider Caribbean and not specific to CARICOM. The invitation was extended on a bilateral basis, nevertheless the meeting would still provide an opportunity to address issues relevant to all CARICOM Members States.
Before meeting with President Trump, the invited leaders had a working meeting with the US National Security Advisor Ambassador John Bolton. 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,
- An increased role in the region for the re-defined Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC)
- Black listing, de-risking and potential loss of correspondent banking services in Caribbean countries
- Extension of the Caribbean Basin Initiative / Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act (CBERA) which will allow continued one-way duty-free access for Caribbean goods into the US market beyond 2019
- Energy Security and stronger economic cooperation
- Situation in Venezuela
The meeting with President Trump focused more on high level discussions, with the President wanting to hear the leaders’ perspectives on a range of issues including:
- The current economic outlook for each country in attendance and the region generally,
- Areas in which the US could offer greater support,
- The situation in Venezuela
- The respective perspectives of the leaders on Cuba
Specific concerns were raised by Caribbean leaders about the importance of tourism to the region and the extremely dampening effects that travel advisories and warning on visitor arrivals from the North American market have. The President took a particular interest in this matter and asked that it be looked into. A greater role for OPIC in the region was also discussed as a way to increase investments and support strategic development imperatives of the region particularly in energy and infrastructure. Jamaica is already working on a cooperation programme with the US through the Treasury Department in this regard All leaders present expressed concern over the situation in Venezuela and support for a peaceful and sustainable solution to return the country to stable and democratic government.
Has Jamaica given any commitment to the USA that it will be a party of any activity to change the current Government in Venezuela?