Thursday, January 18, 2018

Biden’s visit and Caricom-US relations

(This editorial was 

published in the Barbados Nation on May 28)

THE SIGNING in Port of Spain of a Trade Investment Framework Agreement between the United States of America and the Caribbean Community (Caricom) is the highlight of a two-day visit to Trinidad and Tobago by United States Vice-President Joseph Biden.

He was scheduled to arrive  accompanied by his wife Dr Jill Biden, as part of official visits to Brazil and Colombia. The signing of the trade investment pact will follow a meeting between the vice-president and Caricom Heads of Government, hosted by Trinidad and Tobago’s Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar.

At the time of writing, it was not clear how many Heads of Government would be in attendance at the meeting. But this is the first official high-level structured dialogue between Caricom leaders and the administration of President Barack Obama outside of informal discussions on the periphery of the last two convenings of the Summit of the Americas, the first in 2009 in Port of Spain.

Caricom’s efforts for a summit in Washington during President Obama’s first term never materialised. However, all 14 of its independent member states are conscious of the need to maintain good relations with the United States as the Community’s second most important trade and aid partner after the European Union.

A key element of the Trade Investment Framework Agreement, to be referenced as TIFA, is the proposed establishment of a special council comprising a Caricom representative and one from the Office of the US Trade Representative (USTR).

The council will meet once annually and maintain oversight on trade and investment with a view to expeditious removal of barriers to trade and investment between the United States and Caricom states.

Discussions will also focus on cooperation for renewable energy; progress in the implementation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI); combating trafficking in small arms; as well as addressing the lingering Caricom concerns over an unresolved “notification” problem involving the United States sending back to this region Caribbean nationals as “criminal deportees”.

The “criminal deportees” challenge, as well as human trafficking and trafficking in small arms, along with creation of a witness protection programme, were among a range of “security” issues that had formed part of the historic “Partnership for Prosperity and Security in the Caribbean”, signed 16 years ago this month in Barbados during then president Bill Clinton’s historic meeting with Caribbean heads of government.

Now that there is to be a Trade Investment Agreement between the United States and Caricom, it would be enlightening to learn of the measure of  “implementation progress” achieved on the wide-ranging recommended “actions” outlined in that 48-page document of 1997.

— Courtesy Barbados Nation