Kingston, Jamaica (22nd January, 2020) – Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation, the Honourable Mark Brantley is currently in Jamaica for a U.S. -Caribbean Ministerial Dialogue, a Policy Discussion on U.S.- Caribbean Relations, and an important bilateral meeting with his counterpart, Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, which are taking place at the Pegasus Hotel.
The Ministerial Meeting begun with remarks by Senator the Honourable Kamina Johnson-Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Jamaica, who moderated the roundtable meeting. After her introductory remarks, Senator Johnson-Smith then gave the floor to Secretary Pompeo.
Secretary Pompeo expressed that this special visit is his ninth visit to this hemisphere, which reinforces President Trump’s push to deepen the United States’ relationship with the Caribbean, especially, to advance common interests in security, prosperity, development cooperation, and the promotion of democracy and human rights. He further emphasized that prior to this visit, President Trump encouraged him to listen to the leaders present at the roundtable and hear about the challenges faced in the region and opportunities for partnership.
During the meeting, Minister Brantley spoke about the difficult time the region is currently facing with the issues of de-risking and blacklisting, coupled with the withdrawal and reduction of correspondent banking. Minister Brantley highlighted that as a response, Caribbean countries would have made the necessary legislative and regulatory changes but have still not had this critical issue resolved. Although this is a matter largely handled through the Treasury Department, Minister Brantley called upon the Secretary of State to advocate on behalf of the region for a solution to this phenomenon, which poses a clear and present danger to Caribbean economies.
The Minister then seamlessly segued into highlighting the issue of the “graduation” of Caribbean countries based on their GDP. “The reality of Climate Change and the unpredictable weather patterns within the Caribbean region should be an important factor added to the criteria for such a “graduation”, he said. He further stated that “the gains we have made over the course of our independence could be wiped out in a matter of hours.” The consequence of which would then lead to a debt trap since after such natural disasters, our countries are forced to borrow substantial loans, which are not given at concessionary rates, because of our graduated status.
Present at the roundtable were Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Bahamas, Belize, Haiti, Dominican Republic, St. Lucia and Jamaica. Foreign Ministers raised various other issues including regional security, education, youth empowerment, climate change and the strengthening of the OAS.
Minister Brantley is accompanied by Mr. Sheldon Henry, Foreign Service Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs.