Washington DC, USA – February 10, 2021: Vice President Kamala Harris delivers remarks to Department of Defense personnel, with President Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III. (Shutterstock)
By Chris Tobias
Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), President of the Dominican Republic Luis Abinader, and the CARICOM Secretary-General Dr. Carla Barnett met virtually on April 29 with the US Vice President Kamala Harris. The purpose was to discuss support for post-Covid-19 economic recovery, the climate crisis, energy security, and security cooperation.
In her remarks, VP Harris stated:
“As a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere, the United States shares a common bond with the nations of the Caribbean. As neighbors, we know our partnership is key to our shared prosperity and security.
We also know that we have common challenges. And that is why I’ve convened this meeting: to strengthen our partnership and chart a path forward together.
As we all know, our nations have extensive people-to-people ties. Millions of Americans have Caribbean heritage. Millions of Americans travel to the Caribbean each year for vacation, visit friends and family, and engage with the richness of that history.
From South Florida to New York and beyond, Caribbean culture has become a meaningful part of American culture. And we are all grateful for that.
At the same time, we recognize that we find ourselves collectively in a challenging time. The pandemic has upended so many aspects of our lives and the lives of our people. And the economic recovery has been difficult and uneven for so many in this Region.
There is also an existential threat we collectively face in the climate crisis, and we are acutely aware that the world’s emissions have an outsize impact on the Caribbean.
I want to be clear: The United States is committed to you, our neighbors, and we will take on these challenges together. Convenings like this haven’t happened very often. So, today, as a demonstration of our administration’s commitment, I propose this be an annual meeting.
We have, of course, today, a lot to discuss. And there are three areas in particular that I will ask us to focus on — areas that I know are a priority for many of you: economic recovery, security, and climate and energy.
On the issue of economic recovery, the United States is the Caribbean’s biggest economic partner. This partnership benefits the economy of the United States just as it benefits your economies. So, we will explore today how we can strengthen that economic partnership.
On the issue of security, I know many of you are particularly concerned about the trafficking of drugs and guns and the associated violence. That is why today’s agenda includes a discussion of additional funding and other support the United States can offer to reduce violence in the Region.
And third, we will discuss an urgent issue for our entire planet: the issue of the climate crisis. In particular, we will discuss ways to strengthen your climate resilience and accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
Your input will help guide the United States’ effort in the days and months ahead.”
CARICOM Leaders took the opportunity to raise other issues of concern, including access to development financing, climate finance, de-risking, and the loss of correspondent banking. They expressed deep concern at the influx of guns into the Region from the United States and called for more action to stem the flow. They also looked forward to all countries of the Americas participating in the upcoming Summit of the Americas, which takes place in June in Los Angeles, USA.
In conclusion, the Vice President reaffirmed America’s commitment to the Caribbean Basin Initiative. The Heads of Government welcomed her proposal to meet annually and called for a Summit with President Joe Biden.