I am delighted to be here today and would like to thank all of you for coming for what is an important day for the United States, the Kingdom of the Netherlands, and the people of the Dutch Caribbean. As the Assistant Secretary for Political-Military Affairs, I am particularly delighted to be signing the new U.S.-Dutch Caribbean Status of Forces Agreement today with Ambassador Rudolf Bekink of the Netherlands.
There are few agreements that demonstrate the closeness of diplomatic relations between countries better than a Status of Forces Agreement. SOFAs provide a critical framework for countries to cooperate together on security issues and enable countries to further build and strengthen their defense relationships. This is important because when countries can work together and cooperate in the area of national defense – one of the most sensitive and critical areas for any nation – we find that they can work together on almost any issue. Therefore, the agreement that we are about to sign is not just a clear demonstration of the closeness of the defense relationship between the United States and the Kingdom of the Netherlands, but of the strength of our overall bilateral relationship.
While our two countries have enjoyed strong relations for decades, this agreement, like the Status of Forces Agreements that have preceded it, updates and revalidates what is already a very strong partnership. By enabling our countries to continue to build our defense cooperation, I am confident that this Status of Forces Agreement will further strengthen the overall relationship between our countries.
The U.S. and the Kingdom of the Netherlands share many common interests in the Caribbean and we already enjoy an extensive network of agreements and treaties that allows our countries to work together for our mutual benefit. This new agreement importantly ensures continuing access to a safe but challenging tropical environment in which our forces can train together and conduct joint exercises.
But beyond the shared strategic value of this agreement to both the U.S. and the Kingdom, there are practical benefits offered by our close friendship as well. This agreement will also provide substantial economic benefits to the people of the Dutch Caribbean itself. These benefits will come from visits by U.S. ships, as well as from joint exercises and training activities in the Caribbean that we expect will bring between three and four million dollars annually to the economies of the Dutch Caribbean islands.
It is for all of these reasons that I am proud to represent the United States today in signing this very important agreement. The agreement is a clear demonstration of the strength of the strategic partnership between the U.S. and the Kingdom of the Netherlands and will, I believe, be of great strategic and economic benefit to the United States and to the Dutch Caribbean.