Sunday, January 21, 2018

‘I want to reaffirm bonds of friendship’


Touchdown: Prime Minister of Japan Shinzo Abe (right, foreground) and his contingent arrive yesterday at the South Terminal of Piarco International Airport, where they were greeted by Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran (right, background). —Photo: ISHMAEL SALANDY


Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and his wife, Akie Abe, arrived yesterday for an official two-day visit to Trinidad and Tobago.

From Piarco International Airport, Prime Minister Abe proceeded to the Diplomatic Centre, St Ann’s, to pay a private courtesy call on Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar. The Japanese Prime Minister then held a bilateral meeting with Antigua and Barbuda Prime Minister Gaston Browne and later met with Jamaica Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller.

Today, there will be a Caricom-Japan Summit, which is scheduled to start around 9 a.m. at the Hilton Trinidad in St Ann’s.

After that, Abe will continue a series of bilateral meetings with Caricom heads. He is set to meet with the Barbados delegation at noon; Dominica at 12.20 p.m.; Grenada 12.40 p.m.; Guyana, 1 p.m.; Haiti, 1.30 p.m.; St Kitts and Nevis, 2 p.m.; St Lucia, 2.20 p.m.; St Vincent and the Grenadines, 2.40 p.m.; and Suriname at 3 p.m.

He is expected to leave Trinidad and Tobago at 5 p.m. today.

Before his arrival in T&T, Express Political Editor Ria Taitt was invited exclusively to submit two questions to Prime Minister Abe. Following are the questions asked and the answers he gave:

Question 1:

This is the first visit of a Japanese Prime Minister to this country (and region). Is this an indication of a readi­ness by the Japanese Government to employ a more direct approach in strengthening and securing its relations with Trinidad and Tobago and Caricom across a broad range of interests? Apart from the presence of Japanese products in Caricom markets, traditionally motor vehicles and electronic commodities, in T&T there has been significant development—the proposed partnership between Japanese industrial giant Mitsubishi and major Trinidad and Tobago corporation the Massy Group (formerly Neal and Massy), for the construction of a US$850 million petrochemical plant. Is there a new horizon for broadening and deepening the economic ties between Japan and T&T and, by extension, Caricom?

Prime Minister Abe:

It is a great honour to be here in Trinidad and Tobago for the first-ever visit by a Japanese Prime Minis­ter. The Caribbean region is an unforgettable place for me, as it was the destination for my honeymoon with my wife, Akie. We were so impressed by the beautiful nature and the diverse culture epitomised by Mr Derek Walcott. I am so glad to return to this region.

I believe Japan and Caricom have common affinities beyond the distance. We have solidarity as maritime nations surrounded by the sea, sharing the recognition of “safety of the sea is safety of ourselves” as well as common interests, challenges and values. Through my conversations with the heads of the Caricom countries, I would like to reaffirm the bonds of friendship and strengthen our relations.

One of the bonds between Japan and Caricom countries is solidarity as maritime nations. Japan, as a nation which comprises many small islands, has provided assistance utilising Japanese technologies and knowledge to address issues such as climate change, waste management and capacity building of fishing industries.

Japanese assistance projects aim to address challenges together with the local people, sharing our skills and connecting with the hearts of people. Japan will continue to assist Caricom in its endeavour toward sustainable development as well as in overcoming its vulnerabilities.

Caricom countries are significant for Japan as a source of natural gas, coffee and natural asphalt. Also, they have been attracting attention in terms of the development of such fields as renewable energy and electricity. Japanese investments bring a “win-win” relationship which would also contribute to the local community through the development of human resources and the innovation of technologies, just to name a few. As several leaders of prominent companies of Japan accompany me to Trinidad and Tobago, I hope this visit will invigorate economic relations between Japan and Caricom.

Sustainable development of the economy can be a reality only with peace and stability based on the rules of international society. In terms of the sea, I have been advocating three principles­—rightful assertion based on the international law, not to resort to the use of power to make threats, and to pursue a peaceful resolution of any conflict. We should learn from Caricom countries which have experience in achieving agreements on maritime border disputes in peaceful ways.

Caricom countries ought to be proud of themselves for having a tradition of aspiring to fundamental values and having made them a reality. As beacons of peace and stability in the world, it is my wish that Japan and Caricom countries will continue to work closely to achieve sustainable development and strengthen the bonds of goodwill existing among our people and I hope we can walk together as global partners to realise the stability and prosperity of the international society. I would be delighted if this visit to the Caribbean region could serve as a first step toward this goal.

Question 2:

Caribbean islands are very vulnerable to climate change. Japan as an island state has demonstrated an aggressive interest in dealing with the issue of climate change. What prospects are there for assisting Cari­com countries in grappling with this problem?

Prime Minister Abe:

As we, the Japanese people, also live in an island country, we share with small Caricom island states the necessity to tackle such challenges as hurricanes and rising sea levels caused by climate change.

For this reason, Japan regards “Environment and Disaster Risk Management” as a priority area for its assistance toward Caricom and is working actively to support their response toward climate change in the region.

Today, on July 28, the exchange of notes for the “Project for Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership”, which pledges Japan’s grant assistance amounting to approximately US$15 million, will be signed in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago.

Through this project, which is to be implemented by the UNDP (United Nations Development Programme), Japan aims to assist Caribbean countries in developing and implementing climate-change policies; to promote the transfer of technologies toward adaptation and mitigation through various pilot projects; and to build a regional platform for information sharing.

As the first Prime Minister of Japan to visit the Caribbean region, I am very glad to witness the signing for this project which is expected to contribute to the response of Caricom Member States to the climate change in a wider regional basis.

Utilising the technologies and expertise we have gained as an island country, Japan will continue its support to Caribbean countries to meet their needs. Through such cooperation, I would like to further strengthen our partnership to address the issue of climate change shoulder to shoulder with all of the Caricom Member States.