Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar (L) with Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe
PORT OF SPAIN, Trinidad -- Heads of government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) “were heartened” by Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe’s positive response to a number of issues raised during their one-day summit on Monday.
Speaking at a joint press announcement in Port of Spain, Trinidad, following the first ever CARICOM-Japan summit, CARICOM chairman Gaston Browne, prime minister of Antigua and Barbuda, said he and his colleague leaders “are heartened” by the response of the Japanese prime minister on a number of issues such as reform of international financial governance.
“The case therefore would need to be made to the international community by development partners such as Japan, for new alternative sources of development financing to be made available to CARICOM states and other middle income countries with similar vulnerabilities,” he said.
This is of particular importance to CARICOM countries faced with the loss of concessionary development financing due to their classification as middle income countries which precludes them from access to such funding based on their per capita income.
Browne said, “We welcomed Japan’s support for including the issue of vulnerability in this regard as a criterion.”
The regional leaders stressed to their counterpart that Japan’s support through using its influence in institutions where these determinations are made was needed.
“CARICOM would welcome Japan’s assistance in advocating on behalf of the Caribbean region in fora such as the United Nations, the G8 and G20, so that there could be a better understanding of the problems that these countries face,” the CARICOM chairman added.
The leaders discussed areas ranging from climate change through sustainable development and co-operation in the international arena. Prime Minister Abe stated that Japan’s policy towards CARICOM consisted of three pillars. These he identified as cooperation towards sustainable development including overcoming vulnerabilities particular to small island states; deepening and expanding bonds founded on exchanges and friendship; and cooperation in addressing challenges of the international community.
Stressing Japan’s solidarity with the CARICOM member states, the prime minister said Japan itself was a country that included small islands.
“Japan and CARICOM countries are maritime island nations, surrounded by the ocean, enjoying its blessings, and regarding the safety of the ocean as the safety of its own,” he added.
Japan, Abe said, looked “to dramatically expand” the reach of exchanges with CARICOM which were already elevated through the Japan-CARICOM Friendship Year 2014. The parties agreed that there should be regular meetings to further strengthen the relationship.
Meanwhile, on Sunday, Trinidad and Tobago Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar held bilateral talks with Abe on the occasion of his first visit by a Japanese prime minister to the Caribbean.
High on the agenda was the arms trade treaty (ATT), which establishes international standards for the movement of conventional arms and ammunition across borders. Japan and Trinidad and Tobago both signed the treaty in 2013.
In the meeting, Persad-Bissessar sought the support of the Japanese government to support Trinidad and Tobago’s bid to host the ATT Secretariat.
Persad-Bissessar also recognised Japan’s and Trinidad and Tobago’s bid for non-permanent seats on the United Nations Security Council.
Abe expressed his gratitude to the Trinidad and Tobago government for its decision to waive entry visa requirements for Japanese nationals entering the country for business and tourism purposes for a maximum period of 90 days.
During the discussions Abe raised the matter of deepening bilateral relations and requested that Persad-Bissessar consider opening a Trinidad and Tobago embassy in Tokyo. She promised to immediately engage in discussions with the minister of foreign affairs on this issue.
Discussions between the two prime ministers also focused on Trinidad and Tobago as an attractive destination for trade and investment; in particular, the recent launch of the Tamana Intech Park, the first science and technology park in the Caribbean.
Persad-Bissessar encouraged Japanese firms to take up residency, particularly firms involved in the areas of ICTs, clean technologies, and agro-processing. She said that the minister of trade, industry, investment and communications would pursue discussions with relevant members of the delegation during their stay.
The Japanese prime minister agreed to consider further areas of cooperation in such ventures.
Persad-Bissessar noted the positive impact on the South-Western peninsula with regard to job creation by the introduction of the dimethyl ether (DME) Project, which has been established by the Massy Group, the Mitsubishi Corporation, and Mitsubishi Gas Chemical.
Matters regarding climate change, renewable energy, Small Island Developing States (SIDS), crime and security, triangular co-operation, and the environment were also pursued ahead of the Japan-CARICOM summit on Monday.
The Japanese prime minister recognised the role Trinidad and Tobago plays in CARICOM and advised that Japan would host the fourth Japan/CARICOM foreign ministers forum in Tokyo.