KINGSTON, Jamaica, July 21, 2016 (CMC) – The Prime Ministers of Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago have declared meetings, held over the last four days, a success.
In a communiqué, issued on today, Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness, and his counterpart from Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister, Dr. Keith Rowley, said their discussions were “meaningful and illuminating” and pledged to engage “as often as necessary to maintain the momentum towards cementing the bonds of friendship and cooperation…”
The leaders of the two Caribbean Community (CARICOM) member states held bilateral talks on several issues of mutual concern, including the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME), immigration, trade, energy and air services.
They both agreed to strengthen their bilateral cooperation, through the early conclusion of the Framework Bilateral Cooperation agreement, currently under consideration.
“The agreement will include the establishment of a joint commission to advance functional cooperation between both countries, and will focus on collaboration in areas of mutual interest, including tourism, transportation, security, technical and cultural cooperation.”
Concerning immigration issues, particularly the denial of entry and treatment of Jamaicans, Rowley confirmed that specialised training had been completed for immigration officers at the Piarco International Airport, in an effort to address concerns.
The leaders also agreed to address the matters related to the deportation of Jamaicans from Trinidad and Tobago.
They acknowledged that an accelerated process had already resulted in a significant number of returns, while the processing of other detainees is underway.
Holness and Rowley also reiterated their commitment to the process of regional cooperation, in the context of CARICOM and the Association of Caribbean States (ACS).
The leaders also pledged to work towards a better and more stable environment for business to thrive.
“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…..to increase investment flows between our countries and to develop mechanisms to facilitate closer trade cooperation and the resolution of trade issues,” Holness said.
Other areas discussed included 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,” Holness added .
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. The leaders said they have agreed to strengthen the close collaboration of both countries at the multilateral level as Small Island Developing States (SIDS).
At a press conference, held shortly before his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart departed Jamaica, Holness stated that the 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.”
In focusing on trade and concerns expressed by members of the local business and manufacturing communities about the lack of access to the market in the twin island republic, Rowley said while there were some misunderstandings, the meetings with business leaders were very cordial.
“I leave here with this feeling that the local business community is satisfied and excited about expanding Jamaica’s footprint into Trinidad and Tobago and the rest of the region.”
Rowley – who referred to meetings with Holness as a summit — said the issues discussed were of vital importance to both countries, and the meetings were a success.
“It is not every day that two Prime Ministers get to spend all day or all week, working on issues of vital importance to the territories. If we had not agreed to what has been described as a successful summit and taken the initiative to put an end to what was festering between our countries, the consequences could have been quite dire to our business communities and our countries as a whole…” said Rowley at a press conference on Thursday.
In thanking the people of Jamaica, Rowley said Trinidad and Tobago will provide the leadership that the populations of Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica expect.
He also invited Holness, the Foreign Affairs Minister and Attorney General to visit Trinidad and Tobago at the earliest possible date.