STATEMENT BY PRIME MINISTER ANDREW HOLNESS
THE ASSOCIATION OF CARIBBEAN STATES SUMMIT, 4 JUNE 2016
Parliament is being asked to note the following statement consequent upon the Prime Minister’s participation in the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States, held in Havana, Cuba, on the 4th June, 2016.
The Association of Caribbean States was established on the 24th July 1994 in Cartagena de Indias, Colombia, with the aim of increasing cooperation among countries of the Greater Caribbean in four principal areas:
- The preservation and Conservation of the Caribbean Sea;
- Sustainable Tourism;
- Trade Development and Economic External Relations; and
- Transport and Disaster Risk Reduction.
As you are aware, I led a delegation to Havana, Cuba on 4th June to participate in the 7th Summit of the Association of Caribbean States. The Summit’s theme was “United under the ACS to face the challenges of sustainable development, climate change and peace in the Region.” I, therefore, wish to report to the House, on the outcome of the Summit and on the bilateral discussions held in the margins of the Meeting.
At the outset, I wish to place on record, Jamaica’s appreciation to the Government and people of the Republic of Cuba for the warm hospitality and for the excellent arrangements made to facilitate Jamaica’s participation in the Summit. I wish to commend Cuba’s outstanding Chairmanship of this important encounter which facilitated a successful outcome.
3.0 The 7th Summit
The 7thSummit was convened under the Chairmanship of His Excellency Mr Raul Castro Ruz, President of the Council of State and Ministers of the Republic of Cuba, under the theme: ‘United under the ACS to face the challenges of sustainable development, climate change and peace in the region.”
Jamaica’s delegation to the recently concluded 7th Summit of Heads of State and Government of the Association of Caribbean States also included: the Attorney General Hon. Marlene Malahoo Forte, Mrs. Elaine Foster-Allen, Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Jamaican Ambassador to Cuba, A’Dale Robinson, High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago, David Prendergast and Mrs. Angella Comfort, Director of the Caribbean and America’s Department in the Foreign Ministry.
The Summit concluded with the adoption of the Havana Declaration and Plan of Action, which had critical inputs from Jamaica. The Declaration includes commitments to addressing the mounting threats and challenges facing the Greater Caribbean: vulnerabilities to the effects of climate change; the need to strengthen the linkages between climate change and environmental issues in the fight against poverty; decline in correspondent banking relationships and de-risking by major international partners; as well as cooperation in disaster risk management and reduction .(Appendix 1: The Havana Declaration)
The Plan of Action sets out the agreed actions and projects to be undertaken in Member States, including Jamaica, over the next two years in the areas of sustainable tourism, trade relations, transportation including port and maritime development, culture and education. Measures to protect the Caribbean Sea remain a priority, including addressing the Sargassum seaweed problem. The meeting noted the importance of the operations of the Special Fund which will facilitate the implementation of these projects (Appendix 2: Plan of Action).
In my address at the Summit, I confirmed Jamaica’s position on the ACS as follows: “Jamaica remains committed, as a founding member, to the ideals of the ACS as it positions itself to achieve sustainable development and strengthen technical cooperation among Member countries. There is an urgent need for enhanced regional and hemispheric partnership to counter threats to our security, through increased innovation and more effective forms of cooperation.”
On behalf of our country, I highlighted the Association’s “particular importance to Jamaica and especially my Government, given our resolve to pursue increased economic alliances and cooperation with our partners in the Caribbean basin to put Jamaica on a firm path to prosperity and to ensure sustainable growth and job creation.”
In my statement, I also highlighted my concerns by stating: “the vulnerabilities of many of our countries have been further exacerbated by our geography, which is often characterised by porous coastlines. This makes us susceptible to various forms of illicit trafficking in drugs, arms, ammunition, as well as the scourge of human trafficking.”
I further noted that: ‘In recent years, the emergence of multiple sources of instability across the globe, such as violent extremism, cyber-crime, corruption, and civil unrest, has significantly impacted peace and security in the region, with the gravest threat posed by transnational organised crime. These factors continue to undermine law and order, impede our economic growth prospects and social development, disrupt our valiant efforts to achieve sustainable development and derail the general recognition of the Caribbean as a ‘Zone of Peace’, a commitment we undertook during our Second Summit in 1996.”(Appendix 3 Full Text of Prime Minister’s Statement to the 7th Summit)
4.0 Bilateral Discussions
In the margins of the Summit, I engaged several Heads of State/Government of the ACS and, in particular, held bilateral talks with Presidents Raul Castro of Cuba and Luis Guillermo Solis of Costa Rica, Prime Ministers Mark Rutte of the Netherlands and Dr. Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, on matters of mutual interest and concern. The Attorney General also met with the Assistant Secretary General of the OAS, during which she reiterated Jamaica’s interest in the continuation of the OAS technical assistance programme to Jamaica, under the development pillar.
I was pleased to discuss with President Raul Castro, a wide range of bilateral and regional issues. We reviewed our relations at the various levels, and pledged to identify ways, in the short term, to deepen the prospects for greater collaboration and exchanges in the areas of trade, tourism, climate change and disaster mitigation, as well as culture, education. We acknowledged that there was more to be done, and reaffirmed our commitment to examine possibilities at the bilateral level, to improve the current state of economic relations and methods for expansion, in light of the new dynamics in US/Cuba relations.
I reiterated Jamaica’s unwavering commitment to continue the call for an end to the Economic Embargo against Cuba and to ensure that this call is maintained until it is lifted and that Cuba can operate without the strictures of the unilateral action by the United States.
Among the possible areas identified for immediate action are stronger mechanisms for cooperation in culture, through music and the creative industries. The commitment was made to explore initiatives for the provision of increased language training on both sides, emphasizing provision of English language training to assist Cuba, as required, as they prepare to receive greater inflows of visitors.
We addressed the grave challenges associated with climate change and sea level rise on the region and the potential consequences on human lives and economic development. We agreed, as a priority, to share experiences and best practices at the institutional level. Cuba offered to provide experts to further advance data gathering, modelling and projections for mitigation, and the definition of appropriate responses by the State.
Following the signing of the MOU on Multi-destination Tourism by the Attorney General, Marlene Malahoo Forte, and the Tourism Minister of Cuba, Manuel Marrero Cruz, on 4th June, we committed to have our respective competent Ministries define the appropriate mechanisms to implement the Memorandum in a manner that brings tangible benefits to both countries. We acknowledged the importance of working together expeditiously, to facilitate the movement of peoples through the region to support Multi-destination Tourism for the Caribbean.
I was also pleased to extend an invitation to the President to pay an Official Visit to Jamaica at a time to be determined through diplomatic channels. President Castro graciously accepted.
4.2 COSTA RICA
In my meeting with the President of Costa Rica, we discussed approaches to increase trade relations and technical cooperation between both countries in a number of areas, including medical supplies and technology, agriculture, security and tourism. It was noted that improved relations are to be facilitated through the existing CARICOM-Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement of 2004 and the Jamaica-Costa Rica General Agreement on Economic, Technical and Commercial Cooperation, which was signed in 1992. Within this context, the President of Costa Rica encouraged Jamaica to participate in the Trade Exhibition, to be held in Costa Rica in September 2016, to identify possible increase in trade in goods and a variety of manufactured products, in efforts to address the negative balance of trade with Costa Rica.
4.3 TRINIDAD AND TOBAGO
In bilateral talks with Trinidad and Tobago, I addressed the lengthy detention of Jamaican nationals in the Immigration Detention Centre (IDC); follow-up to the commitments made by Trinidad and Tobago in the discussions between the Foreign Ministers; and matters relating to the pricing of petroleum products.
I was given an assurance that any administrative delays in the processing of some 53 detainees would be dealt with. Work is also in progress on the designated area at the Piarco Airport for persons being returned from Trinidad and Tobago. Discussions will continue on other issues, including the implementation of the CSME, the matter of petroleum pricing raised by PM Holness and a bilateral framework arrangement with Trinidad and Tobago.
Prime Minister Rowley has also agreed to pay an official visit to Jamaica in the near future, to continue discussions with me at the political level.
I stated that “While my Government is not taking the position that the events in March were a calculated strategy by Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica needs to see improvements in the treatment of our nationals through follow-up on the commitments made in dialogue between my Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith and TT Foreign Minister Dennis Moses. I am, therefore, anticipating the completion of the designated area at the Piarco Airport.” I also said that “Any administrative delays in the processing for return of Jamaican nationals in detention to allow them to be speedily reunited with their families, is of immediate concern to my Administration.”
4.4 THE KINGDOM OF THE NETHERLANDS
The Meeting with the Prime Minister of the Netherlands provided an opportunity to explore further cooperation initiatives and partnerships for development.
Andrew Holness ON, MP
7th June 2016