Washington – The Joe Biden administration on Friday renewed its commitment to the Caribbean, saying that its partnership is “key” to “shared prosperity and security”.
In a virtual meeting with Caribbean Community (CARICOM) leaders and the President of the Dominican Republic Luis Abinader, US Vice President Kamala Harris, the daughter of a Jamaican-born retired economist, said that “as a neighbour in the Western Hemisphere, the United States shares a common bond with the nations of the Caribbean”.
“As neighbours, we know our partnership is key to our shared prosperity and security,” Harris said in the meeting that was also attended by CARICOM Secretary General Dr Carla Barnett.
“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,” she added. “Millions of Americans have Caribbean heritage. Millions of Americans travel to the Caribbean each year for vacation, to visit friends and family, and to 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,” Harris continued. And we are all grateful for that. At the same time, we recognise that we find ourselves collectively in a challenging time.”
She said the COVID-19 pandemic has upended many aspects of the lives of people worldwide, stating that economic recovery has been difficult and uneven for many in the region”.
Harris said there is also an existential threat that the United States and the Caribbean face in the climate crisis, declaring that “we are acutely aware that the world’s emissions have an outsize impact on the Caribbean”.
“In light of this, I want to be clear: The United States is committed to you, our neighbors, and we will take on these challenges together,” she said. “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.”
The US vice president focused on three areas that, she said, are of priority for regional leaders: economic recovery, security, and climate and energy.
On economic recovery, she noted that 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,” she said.
On security, Harris said the agenda included a discussion of additional funding and other support the United States can offer to reduce violence in the region.
She said climate change is an “urgent issue for our entire planet”, and, “in particular, we will discuss ways to strengthen your climate resilience and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy”.
The White House later said in a statement that the meeting with the 15 Caribbean leaders “underscored the importance the Biden-Harris administration places on our partnerships throughout the Caribbean”.
It said the vice president made clear the United States is committed to work with “our Caribbean neighbours to advance cooperation on economic recovery, the climate crisis and security, among other areas of mutual concern”.
As part of the Biden administration’s commitment to continued engagement within the Caribbean, the White House noted Harris’ proposal for an annual meeting of this group to continue high-level discussions.
“As the United States is the region’s largest economic partner, the vice president and the leaders discussed ways to further facilitate trade and attract US investment,” the statement said.
On security, Harris informed the leaders that the United States will expand its assistance to the Caribbean through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI).
The vice president also discussed new funding to combat firearms trafficking, enhance maritime security, and support training for police and others, according to the White House.
It said the vice president and Caribbean leaders discussed cooperation to address the climate crisis and the transition to clean energy.
“They discussed ways to strengthen energy security, increase the deployment of clean energy, and enhance resilience and adaptive capacity to withstand the impacts of climate change and extreme weather events,” said the White House, adding that Harris “welcomed the input from the leaders on these areas.
“They agreed our governments will stay in close touch, including at the upcoming Summit of the Americas in Los Angeles,” continued the White House, stating that that summit will take place in June.
Besides Abinader and Barnett, Caribbean leaders who participated in the meeting were the prime ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Haiti, Jamaica, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and the president of Guyana. (CMC)
Featured image: Official portrait of Vice President Kamala Harris.