MODERATOR: Thank you, Secretary General. I now invite the Secretary of State and the acting chair of COFCOR, Prime Minister Spencer, to the podium to make brief opening remarks, beginning with Secretary of State Clinton.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you very much. And it is truly a pleasure to be here in Barbados once again. I had the great opportunity of visiting the George Washington House earlier today and seeing the extraordinary progress that had been occurring since my last visit. And it was a reminder of how deep and long-lasting our ties are. And thank you so much, Minister, for hosting this event. Let me also thank both Acting Prime Minister Stuart and Prime Minister Thompson as well.
I want to express my appreciation to CARICOM Secretary General Carrington. Prime Minister Skerrit did have to return home for budget consultations. And thank you very much, Prime Minister Spencer, for being here as well. We had very fruitful discussions which are part of an ongoing, vigorous dialogue between the United States and the nations of the Caribbean, and in particular, CARICOM as a regional organization representing the needs and interests of those nations. I think that in our review of the work that we have done over the last 15 months of the Obama Administration, we’ve covered a lot of ground, we’ve made progress, but we have a long way to go.
At the top of our agenda is ensuring the security of our citizens. We have launched the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative in response to increasing rates of crime and violence in the region. And there was an excellent idea put forth earlier today from the minister from Saint Kitts and Nevis to hold a high-level conference on interpersonal violence, because it is a tragic fact that our region, this hemisphere, has the highest rate of interpersonal violence in the world, and that has to be addressed.
We have identified $45 million for this year and requested $79 million in the President’s budget for next year to train and professionalize security forces, boost anti-trafficking efforts, and promote citizen safety partnerships. Although the Caribbean Security Initiative is investing in crime prevention, we also recognize that it has to go hand-in-hand with social inclusion and development, especially in education and employment and strengthening legal institutions.
We are applying some of the lessons we have learned and are learning in Colombia and elsewhere to our security cooperation with Caribbean partners, bringing a new focus both to international collaboration and whole-of-government commitments. And in a spirit of shared responsibility, the United States is very focused on stopping the flow of illegal weapons and drugs, and reducing drug demand in our own home, and dealing with the continuing threat of illicit money.
We discussed a range of other challenges. All of our countries came together in recent months to develop the Caribbean Regional Partnership Framework for HIV and AIDS. The United States is committing $162 million this year to HIV and AIDS programs in the Caribbean. It is still a regrettable fact that the leading cause of death of young adults in the Caribbean is AIDS, striking and taking them from us at the height of their productivity, at the beginning of their family lives. And we are committed to working with you to address that.
We will also be providing on another one of our shared objectives $8 million for climate and energy programs, and supporting innovative solutions through the Energy and Climate Partnership of the Americas that I introduced at a conference we had a few months ago at the Inter-American Development Bank.
Last month, President Obama signed into law a 10-year extension of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act, which has helped to create jobs by expanding access to U.S. markets. He also signed the Haiti Economic Lift Program to support exports from Haiti that will create jobs and opportunities and is a further indicator of our deep commitment to the people of Haiti as they rebuild. But we are well aware that the global economic downturn has hit a number of our friends in the Caribbean especially hard. It has been a very difficult time because, of course, most of these island nations rely on tourism – if not their biggest form of income and economic activity, certainly among them. And as both the United States and Europe suffered from the economic downturn, so did tourism to these beautiful nations.
So we have a lot of work to do. And we believe strongly in addressing these issues in a collaborative fashion. One of the speakers at the beginning of the program said today that we have a long relationship between the United States and the Caribbean, but there was a sense that the United States was absent from the region. Well, we are back. We are back 100 percent. We are back and committed, we’re looking for solutions to common problems, and we’re also looking to listen. I came here to listen as much as to express our hopes and our plans, and I’m very grateful for the positive response and the agreement on what we’re calling the Bridgetown Declaration – Commitment, the Bridgetown Commitment, which embodies the points and expands on them that I have made. Thank you very much. (Applause.)
PRIME MINISTER SPENCER: Thank you, Secretary Clinton. On behalf of CARICOM member states, we are delighted to have you in the region and more particularly in Barbados as we seek to reengage with the United States of America. And we can recall the commitment expressed by President Obama after the 5th Summit of the Americas held in Trinidad and Tobago in 2009. And his comment is always worth quoting. He said, “The United States was seeking a new and more balanced relationship with its Caribbean neighbors through practical initiatives based on a mutually beneficial partnership.”
What transpired today with the presence of Secretary Clinton here with us in the region is further manifestation of this. And today we had the opportunity to look at a wide range of these initiatives and to explain the region’s position with respect to these initiatives and a way forward and to demonstrate that this reengagement is real. We are extremely pleased that the United States has seen it fit to properly and effectively engage the Caribbean because we are a very important an integral part of this hemisphere. And our futures intertwined and we recognize this and a small (inaudible) of states in the region. We recognize that we need to develop these partnerships with the United States of America to ensure that all our futures are secured in this hemisphere.
We have, in fact, agreed on the commitment of Bridgetown Partnership for Prosperity and Security. As Secretary Clinton outlined, we looked at security issues. We looked at the situation in Haiti and the work that has been done and what needs to be done going forward. We also looked at the whole question of energy security, climate change cooperation. We looked at the whole issue of health and how we can collaborate on that, and as Secretary Clinton outlined, what the United States of America intends to do for us in the region with respect to that.
We also looked at the whole issue of trade and all trading and relationships and how that can be improved upon, and the fact that the United States of America has indicated a willingness to extend that arrangement. We sought to let it be known that we will wish to see a greater degree of permanence with respect to these arrangements. But these are issues that we will continue to engage the United States with.
Of course, we looked at the impact of the global, economic, and financial crisis that is impacting on the region extremely severely and particularly for all categorization, most of us, as middle-income countries, and therefore have been graduated out of certain special and differential treatment as it relates to grants and loans and that sort of thing. We would hope that the United States would be able to work with us and to make a case for a restructuring of that approach taken into consideration more the vulnerability of these small states and the resilience index that could have an impact on our communities. We looked at a number of other issues to strengthen the relationship between our two countries.
My own assessment of what has transpired was that it was an extremely productive and effective exchange. Secretary Clinton clearly understands and appreciates what the Caribbean is all about and we are seeking to do. We emphasized the fact that we are friends of the United States of America and we believe that that is mutual. And so we just have to build on that relationship and for the United States to understand that they have, in the region, friends who would wish to ensure that we deepen and strengthen our relationship because we are looking for a safe, secure, and prosperous region for all peoples including the Dominican Republic, of course, as well. (Laughter.) Yes, as part of COFCOR, yes. And they are also represented at this meeting.
SECRETARY CLINTON: That’s funny. That’s great. Thank you so much, Prime Minister.
PRIME MINISTER SPENCER: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you, Prime Minister. Thank you, Secretary of State.
We will now have four questions; two questions each from the Caribbean side and two from the United States gathered team of journalists. The first person I would like to invite is Kaymar Jordan of the Caribbean Media Corporation.
QUESTION: One, two? One – okay. Secretary of State, my question really – I’m going to give you the background before I go in. You came to power and they say you – the Obama Administration came to power on a massive popular mandate of change and there is this concern in the Caribbean, though, that the Administration has been long on talk and short in terms of support. I know you’ve said today that we are back on the radar in terms of the U.S. priorities.
But my question is, in light of what’s going on with criminal deportees, what’s going on with offshore sector immigration matters in this region, you are saying that you remain committed. You have not announced any new funds today. What has been discussed is what we already know is coming. What about the timeliness of that delivery door? When can we expect the funds? And is there a possibility of expanding the support to the Caribbean given the immediate challenges, some that are emerging still with global crisis? You know, there are a whole host of things that are emerging at this stage is my question.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first let me say that I think that any assessment of the first 15 months of President Obama’s term in office would have to include an enormous agenda of important items and many accomplishments that could be chalked up to those efforts. Certainly, in the United States, the President’s success in healthcare reform, the pending success in financial regulatory reform, the fact that most likely in the next weeks, the President will pursue an energy and climate bill. There has been a tremendous amount of legislation that was moving in light of the fact that when the President took office, he inherited the worst financial crisis since the Great Depression and had to enact very significant stimulus programs.
Yet despite that, the President came to the Summit of the Americas, and as Prime Minister Spencer read, the quote from his remarks made a very strong commitment to the Caribbean, which we are following up on. We believe that the efforts that we’ve already announced and that we’re working on, including energy, climate, security, HIV/AIDS and health – all of those are part of an overarching delivery on the commitment that the President and I both feel and will carry through on.
A specific question about criminal deportees – that is now part of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative process. We are engaged in that. It’s not any longer either ignored or stuck on such a back burner you can’t find it; we are engaged on it. Now, I can’t tell you what the outcome of our deliberations will be as we consult with our partners here in the Caribbean, but we are working to try to resolve the very legitimate concerns that a number of nations have brought to us.
On immigration reform, the President is committed to comprehensive immigration reform and he is hoping to be able to address that as soon as he has the political support to be able to get something done. We have, time and time again, made clear that we think that our immigration system has to be reformed. It is not serving us well and we certainly can do better.
So on the big issues and on the initiatives that we’re undertaking, I think it’s important to see both the commitment that has been made that my trip recognizes. Also, just within the last month, Secretary Gates was here. Attorney General Holder was here. We will have high-level representation at the CARICOM meeting in Jamaica. I mean, we are very committed. That doesn’t mean we will always agree. I don’t know any two friends who do, let alone any two countries. But it does mean that we will make a lot of progress together and we will hopefully narrow the areas of disagreement. And I think that is absolute commitment from this Administration.
QUESTION: Thank you.
QUESTION: What about the funds?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, I just announced new funds – all the money that I just announced in my statement. We’d be happy to give you the specifics on that again. That’s all new money.
MODERATOR: I invite Mr. Glenn Kessler of The Washington Post.
QUESTION: Thank you. Madam Secretary, opposition leaders in Iran today canceled demonstrations in Iran that were planned for the anniversary of the elections for fear of violence. Meanwhile, John McCain gave a speech in Washington today in which he called the Obama Administration to challenge the moral legitimacy of the Iranian Government, including imposing sanctions for human rights violations. Do you have any reaction on the cancelation of those demonstrations? And is there anything more the Administration can do to promote the aspirations of the Green Movement?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, it is not only regrettable that the opposition canceled demonstrations that are an expression of their political opposition, an exercise of their rights. But it demonstrates very clearly why the Iranian regime has caused so much concern around the world. When you look at the combination of their repression of their own people, the manipulation of their own election, the fact that they still are an exporter and supporter of terrorist activities around the world, and their pursuit of nuclear weapons, it adds up to a very dangerous combination. And therefore, we stand in solidarity with the people of Iran, as we have since the beginning of this Administration.
The sanctions that were passed by the United Nations yesterday are designed to target those who are behind government actions that have increased human rights abuses like the Revolutionary Guard. And we hope that there will be a response, a positive response, from the Iranian Government to their people’s own aspirations.
So we imposed significant sanctions yesterday. It would be hard to imagine what else the United Nations can do. But the United States, the European Union and others, will be pursuing specific measures designed to try to change the behavior of the Iranian leadership and open up more space and protection for people who are expressing their own political opinions.
MODERATOR: Thank you. Mr. Emmanuel Joseph, Mix 96.9, from here in Barbados.
QUESTION: Good afternoon, Madam Secretary. My question is: In your bilateral discussions with the Barbados Government, what exactly issue did you discuss or what commitments did you make raising out of the discussions?
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, first, we had such a wide ranging discussion. As the foreign minister said, we talked about everything from education and creating opportunities for people who live in persistent poverty; to improving the health system so that it can deal with chronic illnesses like diabetes and heart disease to caring for the elderly; to looking for ways to cooperate on more exchanges to support entrepreneurs, particularly young people who are trying to start their own businesses, get access to credit. We talked about the role that sports can play and cultural performances in creating economic opportunity. We talked about health and wellness, tourism. We had a very broad and deep discussion.
And as I told the minister and the acting prime minister, it was truly one of the best I’ve ever participated in. It was not only very well organized, but very specific. And the discussions that we had will lead to a lot of follow-up work between our two governments.
MODERATOR: Finally, we will have a question from Mr. Mark Landler of The New York Times.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Oh, David, are you taking this question?
QUESTION: To both Mr. Spencer and Madam Secretary, could you discuss the level of anxiety in the region about the oil spill and whether the Secretary was able to provide any reassurance about the issue?
PRIME MINISTER SPENCER: Yes. Well, clearly, there is anxiety in the region about that. And we had the opportunity to speak to that. Clearly, we are concerned about the possibility of it reaching our shores, and Secretary Clinton recognizes that. And every effort will be made to solve the problem. We know that it is perhaps not easy. But I think President Obama has stated a very strong and clear position on this matter. And I sincerely hope and trust – certainly, not only for the United States and other countries in that part of the world, but certainly for the Caribbean, that there will be a solution found soonest.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Well, we certainly agree with that. And the foreign minister of the Bahamas gave a very sobering presentation based on the scientific analysis about what could happen if the oil gets into the Loop Current, how it could soil the beaches in the Bahamas, in Jamaica, in Cuba. We earnestly hope that does not happen.
But the foreign minister of the Bahamas made another very important point, which is that our understanding of and preparation for dealing with a disaster like this is out of date. People have reached agreements and organized themselves to deal with a tanker accident or a cruise ship discharge, the kinds of things that, unfortunately, were the problems of the past. But now, we face this catastrophic blowout of this huge drilling operation in the Gulf. And the ministers made a very good suggestion that we need to start right now to get better prepared, better equipped to deal with something that might be of this magnitude in the future. In the meantime, to do everything we can to not only prevent it from causing further damage, but to mitigate against the damage that it is and will be causing.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Prime Minister.
SECRETARY CLINTON: Thank you.
MODERATOR: Thank you very much, Madam Secretary of State. And thanks to the media for coming.
PRIME MINISTER SPENCER: Thank you.
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