Over the past few days, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley and I had many hours of engaging discussions on bilateral, regional and multilateral issues of mutual interest and concern. I am very pleased Prime Minister, that you accepted my invitation to visit Jamaica, and that we were afforded this time together to get to know each other better towards the strengthening of our bilateral relations.
Our discussions were frank and open and conducted in an atmosphere of growing friendship and mutual respect. Prime Minister Rowley and I were firmly committed to a focused and result-oriented approach, as we considered proposals for improved economic partnerships and greater cooperation to drive our growth process and to improve the lives of our people.
We addressed critical issues pertaining to the proper functioning of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) and shared perspectives relating to its implementation. We spoke about the responsibility of member states to guarantee the agreed measures for hassle-free travel, the application of the ten (10) agreed categories of skilled labour, as well as the even acceptance of CSME Skills certificates throughout the region. In this regard, Trinidad and Tobago undertook to continue the process of reviewing its legislation to address the additional categories for movement.
In recognizing the immigration and other difficulties that some Jamaicans experience in travelling to Trinidad and Tobago, Prime Minister Rowley has given an assurance that his Government is taking the necessary steps to improve the situation and effectively implement the undertakings agreed between our two Foreign Ministers. I am therefore encouraged by the fact that the facility at the Piarco airport for accommodation of persons who have been refused entry, is expected to be completed by the end of this month. In addition, the training of immigration officials has taken place and is expected to be on an on-going basis. We have also seen a marked improvement in the processing of detainees resulting in a significant number of returns, while others are being processed for departure.
Prime Minister Rowley and I acknowledged the need for improvements in our trade relations, including the removal of impediments to the free movement of goods and services between both counties. As leaders, we agreed to work towards a better and more stable environment for businesses to thrive, to increase investment flows between our countries and to develop mechanisms to facilitate closer trade cooperation and the resolution of trade issues.
We explored mutual initiatives to strengthen cooperation in the areas of energy, tourism, air and sea transportation, and technical and cultural exchanges, including cooperation in sports, film, fashion and the creative industries. We agreed to follow-up on our discussions on energy-related issues, with bilateral meetings at the technical and ministerial levels. We also underscored the importance of security cooperation and intelligence-sharing to counter the threats of transnational organized crime and to protect our borders.
With regard to enhanced dialogue and cooperation between our two countries, we agreed to prioritize the Bi-lateral Framework Agreement currently under consideration. This will provide a structured medium for robust bilateral discussions and cooperation in various areas of national development, through the establishment of a Joint Commission.
We both agreed that CARICOM must be made better able to maximize its benefits to all member states and respond to external challenges which impact with increasing intensity on the further development of our countries and the welfare of our citizens. Note was taken of the reform process underway in CARICOM and Jamaica’s establishment of a Commission to assess the benefits of its participation in the organization. We also agreed to strengthen our close collaboration at the multilateral level as Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
We are pleased that the programme organized by the Government was comprehensive enough to include meetings with representatives from the Private Sector, the UWI community, and of course, with his own nationals who have chosen to make Jamaica their home.
This official visit provided the opportunity for useful political dialogue and strategic analysis. We have attained greater clarity on sensitive issues which affect both our countries, and laid a foundation for practical follow-up and follow through on areas discussed, through the Framework Agreement mentioned earlier, together with an agreed list of Action Items.
Ladies and Gentlemen,
This is a time for bold leadership and courage to make the right decisions and chart new pathways, to reset understandings and not to be tempted to base our direction purely on narrow self- interest. We must build stronger alliances in this inter-dependent and inter-connected world, if our objectives are to be realized and our people empowered towards sustainable development.
Today as we close this Official Visit, I can truly say I am optimistic that the relationship between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago can be further nurtured to fulfill our common aspirations and those of our peoples.