Good morning. Good morning, everyone, and let me thank you so much for getting up so early. And we were talking as we came in about – anyone feel the earthquake? Very slight. Very slight, indeed. And as you can tell, this is a real pleasure for us, and I appreciate all of you making the effort to come together.
One of the goals that President Obama and I have is to deepen our relationship with the Caribbean. We know how important each of your countries are in our effort to forge not only closer relations, but more prosperity and more security and greater social inclusion. And I look forward to working with all of you. This morning, I hope that we’ll be able to discuss the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, trade and economic recovery, climate change and energy, and of course, our new policy toward Cuba.
We have with us today three distinguished members of Congress. I saw they were coming in. Some of you know them. We have Congressman Eliot Engel and – (applause) – yeah, good, cheering, you want that noted in the record. (Laughter.) That doesn’t happen very often. (Laughter.) Eliot and I served together very happily for eight years, and as I was also privileged to do with my friend, Gregory Meeks, who has traveled broadly in the region and has just a wealth of good ideas. Also, Bill Delahunt from Massachusetts. We have – (applause) – Bill, Bill, yes indeed, he brought his own cheering section. This is very – well, good planning for a Red Sox fan. (Laughter.)
And I know that some of you are acquainted with the others with whom I’m traveling, Assistant Secretary Tom Shannon, who has been working very hard on all these issues, particularly the security one. This may be a new face to you, Dan Restrepo. Some of you may know Dan. Raise your hand, Dan, for people to get a look at you. Dan is in the White House in the National Security Council, working on Western Hemisphere matters. And let’s see, who else – ah, Hector Morales, our Ambassador to the OAS, who has been working very hard with many of you over a number of years, and particularly in preparation for this meeting.
Before moving on to the issues, I want to introduce someone very special, Professor Dinah Shelton, who is sitting here with me. She is the United States candidate for election to the Inter-American Commission on Human Rights. She brings outstanding credentials. I hope that you will get a chance to talk with her. I’m enthusiastic about her candidacy. I hope you will be able to support her in Thursday’s election. She will bring experience in a common law legal system to the commission, which we think will be very value-added. And of course, I think it’s very important that she happens to be a highly qualified woman. There have not been enough women on the commission, in my humble opinion, so I’m looking forward to talking with you about her and having you meet her.
Let me just briefly run through some of these issues before we turn it over to my colleague here and then have a chance to just visit informally. With the U.S.-Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, President Obama has made a $45 million commitment. We hope it will really help our Caribbean friends and neighbors. We want to help with the common challenges that we face using tools of law enforcement, the military, and development. There was a technical meeting in Suriname on May 20th
, and we’re having the working groups that came out of that meeting currently laying the foundation for a follow-up meeting in the United States later this year.
This was a topic of many conversations in Trinidad and Tobago at the wonderful summit that you hosted. And I am very anxious to get your ideas about how we can help you. I mean, it was the single biggest issue that we heard from the Caribbean countries, that you are being subjected to relentless pressure from the narcotraffickers and the criminal gangs. And we want you to know that President Obama is ready to do whatever we think will work to assist you.
Second, I want to encourage greater economic cooperation. Our economies are clearly highly interconnected. We know that commerce between our countries can be a great part of our economic recovery. And I hope that each of your governments will be willing to work with the United States Trade Representative Ron Kirk, an excellent choice for that position, whom I hope you will get to meet, to convene in trade and investment council meetings. We’re going to place special emphasis (inaudible) promoting balanced trade policies that will affect and enhance the prospects for all of our people. And that’s one of our problems with trade is that not enough of it has reached the people most marginalized and vulnerable, and we have to try to do better on that.
Third, as you know, your countries and the southern part of our country are particularly vulnerable to both climate change and energy price fluctuation. I hope we can work together with the Energy and Climate Change Partnership of the Americas that President Obama announced at the summit and find concrete solutions. We stand ready to help with investment ideas, technology ideas, clean energy approaches, as do other countries in the hemisphere, like Brazil most notably. We want to work together to tackle this problem.
And finally, I want to emphasize the United States under President Obama is taking a completely new approach to our policy toward Cuba. We have eased restrictions on family travel and remittances. As I was getting ready in my hotel room this morning, I had CNN on and I saw just a cheerful reunion between a man and his little baby boy, who he hadn’t seen for a year and a half because of the prior travel restrictions. We have authorized greater telecommunications links. We’ve announced the resumption of bilateral immigration and direct mail talks.
And we do look forward to the day when Cuba can join the OAS. But we believe that membership in the OAS must come with responsibility. And we owe it to each other to uphold our standards of democracy and governance that have brought so much progress to our hemisphere. It’s not about reliving the past; it’s about the future and being true to the founding principles of this organization. I know we’ve had some discussions about this. I hope we will have more. The Caribbean nations have played a key, constructive role in those discussions, and I’m confident we can come up with a common way forward.
I’m exciting about building this relationship. And at this point, I’d like to turn to Foreign Minister Kenneth Baugh of Jamaica, who will deliver welcoming remarks. (Applause.)FOREIGN MINISTER BAUGH:
Thank you very much. I feel so very honored this morning sitting beside Her Excellency Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton.
Let me take the opportunity, first of all, Excellency, of introducing the ministers who are here and some of the ambassadors. We’ll start with Antigua and Barbuda – I’m not sure exactly where you are sitting – right, good – Ambassador Deborah Lovell; Barbados Honorable Maxine McClean is sitting there and she’s sitting besides the Bahamas Minister – Honorable Minister Brent Symonette – right; Belize Minister Elrington – right there with the beard – (laughter) – Dominica Honorable Vince Henderson --
Dominica; Grenada Honorable Peter David – he’s on that side, right; Guyana Ambassador Bayney Karran; and Haiti Honorable Minister Alrich Nicolas, is in (inaudible) there; Saint Kitts and Nevis, Izben Williams Ambassador, right; Saint Lucia Ambassador Michael Louis; Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Honorable Louis Straker (inaudible) – (laughter); and soon I’ll hear from the most difficult (inaudible), the Honorable (inaudible) – have I got it right? – not quite right (inaudible), a very difficult name; and Trinidad and Tobago Honorable Senator Lenny Saith – Lenny Saith is there.
Excellency, I would just like to take the opportunity of responding to what you have said and to commend yourself, the President, and the United States of America for the initiative that has been taken in regard to Cuba. We definitely feel that there is a very positive movement based on the signals that have been sent, and as you just mentioned, the activities that are now taking place that all goes well for its very near future.
I am proud to sit beside you, not only because you are the Secretary of State for the United States of America, but in your own right, as a woman of history and somebody who has demonstrated great courage and great determination over the years that you have been in politics.
We have the audacity to hope.SECRETARY CLNITON:
(Laughter.) Nicely done, (inaudible).FOREIGN MINISTER BAUGH:
That we do it in the context of our renewed spirit of engagement with the United States and CARICOM, which is really characterizing new Administration of the United States of America. I wish to take the opportunity to emphasize the commitment of CARICOM to strengthen the ties of friendship, cooperation, trade, tourism and investment with the United States of America.
Out of the Summit of the Americas, so ably sponsored and hosted by (inaudible) Trinidad and Tobago, we dare to hope that hemispheric unity and solidarity is not a vain and elusive dream, but that an historic economic cooperation and trade, and a large, unified, secure market may not be a distant reality.
We recall the very positive and constructive engagement between CARICOM heads of state and of government and President Barack Obama in the margins of the Summit of the Americas. We recall also the very constructive engagement between CARICOM foreign ministers and Assistant Secretary of State Tom Shannon in the margins of COFCOR. COFCOR is the Council for Foreign and Community Relations, I’m presently the chairman of COFCOR. And that meeting was held recently in Jamaica. I really enjoyed that meeting and enjoyed the presentation of Mr. Tom Shannon.
We express satisfaction at the CARICOM-U.S. meeting on May 20 in Suriname on security cooperation, and I’m very pleased, Excellency, that you have made special mention of the concerns of security in the Caribbean.
We will work on the process of high-level dialogue between CARICOM and the United States of America, in addition to meetings at the level of heads and foreign ministers, also includes encounters with United States congressional representatives and regular contact between senior officials. I remember Congressman Engle coming to Jamaica (inaudible) tremendous set of meetings between himself and Prime Minister Golding and (inaudible).
We look forward to CARICOM and the United States Summit. We are looking forward to a date for that, because I know the President is committed to that, and the opportunity that such a meeting would provide to advance our cooperation and understanding in relation to the CARICOM-U.S. agenda, including a will to consolidate and build institutional mechanisms for our continued dialogue and cooperation. That is between CARICOM and the United States of America. This is something that was started last year at the United Nations in the margins of the United Nations General Assembly.
We have selected certain issues, and Madame Secretary, you have touched on almost all of them. There are certain members of our team here, if they would make a brief presentation, and I’m going to have to emphasize for them this morning that they have to be very brief – three minutes, maximum. We’re going to have three persons. They are Minister of – Minister Saith from Trinidad and Tobago will speak on security within the context of a U.S.-CARICOM partnership, and will basically address the issues already and addressed some of the solutions.
We are going to ask Minister McLean from Barbados to address the issue of development, especially to do with international financial institutions and (inaudible) financial services, and what is coming with the G-20 and how all the economic crisis is affecting the Caribbean, in particular.
And finally, we are going to ask the representative Minister of Belize to speak on the issue of Cuba. (Inaudible) the issues and he’s going to help us to address them (inaudible).
We look forward to an exchange of views on these. We have selected these three topics, not because we don’t have any more -- we have a long list – but in the interests of time so that we can focus all attention on what we consider the critical ones for (inaudible).
Once again, let me extend a warm welcome to everybody, and say how pleased I am to be here with the delegation from the United States of America, particularly in the company of the Secretary of State, who is somebody that we hold in very high regard and very high esteem, and we are pleased to have you here this morning. And thanks for the opportunity for dialogue.