US releases multi-year strategy for engagement with the Caribbean
Representative Eliot Engel (D-NY), ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the chairman emeritus of the committee, on Monday announced the release of a new US government strategy on future engagement with the Caribbean.
The strategy was mandated by the US–Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (Public Law 114-291), authored by Engel and Ros-Lehtinen and signed into law by President Barack Obama on December 16, 2016.
“We spend a great deal of time focusing on challenges and opportunities in faraway places. But, it’s important that we never lose sight of our partners closer to home. In December, when Congress unanimously passed and President Obama signed into law the US–Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, my colleagues and I made it clear that we will prioritize US–Caribbean relations for many years to come,” Engel said. “The release of today’s strategy is an important first step. I look forward to working with the Administration to ensure that it is fully implemented with the support and input of the vibrant Caribbean-American diaspora community.”
“The US–Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act, which reaffirms our commitment to our allies in the Caribbean, became law last December thanks to the leadership of Eliot Engel. The Department of State has now complied with the law by developing a strategy, which is a positive step forward, but it is our duty to enforce those recommendations to ensure we strengthen cooperation with our hemisphere in the areas of trade, security, economic development, and energy,” Ros-Lehtinen said.
Highlights of the strategy include:
• Creation of a US–Caribbean Dialogue, which will be an annual State Department consultative meeting with Caribbean leaders;
• Announcement of a trade and investment conference with the Caribbean focused on increasing bilateral trade and improving the region’s investment climate and regulatory environment;
• Recognition of the need to expand the US diplomatic presence in the Eastern Caribbean if/when funding becomes available;
• Commitment to expand Internet access in the Caribbean by increasing engagement with policy and regulatory authorities, as well as US information-technology leaders, to promote broadband development and deployment;
• Conclusion of more open skies agreements with Caribbean nations by the end of 2020 to facilitate travel and commerce;
• Provision of targeted technical support to countries with the capacity and interest in pursuing energy sector and utility reforms to spur private investment and US energy technology exports;
• Leveraging of US and international public finance resources to help energy project developers mitigate technical and political risks which would reduce the region’s reliance on imported fuels;
• Support for public-private partnerships that facilitate higher education and workforce development strategies in the US and the Caribbean;
• Deployment of US academic experts to the region to develop early literacy curricula;
• Provision of technical assistance for education policy training to teachers, policymakers and civil society;
• Creation of a common operational framework to tackle shared threats, including combating maritime drug trafficking and promoting law enforcement information sharing;
• Commitment to work with Caribbean countries to combat non-communicable diseases and to develop their emergency response capacity and infrastructure resilience to natural and man-made disasters; and
• Commitment to tap into the Caribbean-American diaspora community in promoting the goals of the strategy.