With just 100 days since taking office, the new Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. A.J. Nicholson has already made notable strides in the areas of regional cohesiveness, international partnership and foreign trade policy review.
His first major assignment following being sworn in as Minister on January 6 was the 7th UK/Caribbean Forum, held in St. Georges, Grenada from January 20 to 22.
Under the theme ‘Sustainable Growth toward Prosperity’, high level delegations engaged in wide ranging and frank discussions on major areas of cooperation, trade and investment, security and climate change and sustainable development foreign policy issues.
On his return to Jamaica, the Minister disclosed that the UK had pledged to make available £75 million to assist with development projects within the Caribbean region over a four year period.
Senator Nicholson said it is hoped that the injection of funds would help to build resilience through the development of practical mechanisms that would boost growth in investment, employment, production and trade opportunities that would enhance the prospects of the people of the region.
He noted that this was one of the major outcomes of the meeting, which represented an agreement between the delegates from the Caribbean and the UK to establish a strategic partnership to promote prosperity, growth and development.
In addition to the political dialogue, a significant aspect of the forum was the two parallel meetings on security and trade and investment, both of which identified practical areas for cooperation between the UK and the Caribbean, Senator Nicholson also informed.
“It should be stressed that at the outset of the meeting, the Caribbean insisted that there should be tangible outcomes of the forum, which would have an impact on development at the national and regional levels,” he said. “We therefore adopted a plan of action that identifies concrete areas of cooperation in this new strategic partnership and areas for joint activities."
Senator Nicholson also disclosed that representatives from the UK and the Caribbean region also agreed on the establishment of a UK/Caribbean Expertise Exchange Mechanism to further collaborate on the fight against drugs and international crime.
He informed that the discussions produced positive results, including a further commitment from the UK to assist the region in addressing youth crime, gangs and violence, and to enhance the capacity of the juvenile justice system in the Caribbean.
“There was recognition that the fight against transnational organised crime must involve other partners and so there was agreement to establish, with the full collaboration of the United States, a regional network of land-based law enforcement units to conduct land-based surveillance and interdiction operations,” senator Nicholson said.
He also informed that in the area of trade and investment, special attention was paid to support for the private sector, with particular emphasis on small and medium sized enterprises.
There was agreement on the need to improve access for Caribbean goods and services to the European Union, including a marked reference to the implementation of the Cariforum/EU Partnership Agreement that was signed in 2008, the Minister said.
On the matter of Climate Change, he disclosed that the UK recognised the region’s strong voice on the issue and there was an agreement to collaborate closely in international fora.
“We therefore pledged to work together to secure an agreement by 2015 for enhanced action on a comprehensive, legally global agreement,” he said.
Efforts will also be made to develop a long-term strategy on energy security for the region with an emphasis on renewable energy and green technology, the Minister also informed.
Also in January, some 63 resident and non-resident Ambassadors, High Commissioners and Charge d’Affaires participated in the 14th annual Diplomatic Week.
Director of Protocol in the Ministry, Ricardo Allicock said this was the largest contingent of non-resident Heads of Mission to visit Jamaica during Diplomatic Week in recent time.
During the week, 13 Ambassadors and High Commissioners, who were newly appointed, took the opportunity to present their credentials to the Governor-General and the Foreign Ministry.
Activities for the week included a church service, a cultural evening to showcase Jamaica’s cultural heritage, and briefings by Prime Minister, the Most. Hon. Portia Simpson Miller and other Cabinet Ministers, to raise awareness of Jamaica’s policy regarding economic development and other issues.
The week’s activities culminated with an excursion to Appleton Estate on Friday (Feb. 3), which exposed the diplomats to aspects of Jamaica’s commercial and economic development.
Additionally, within the first 100 days in office, Minister of State in the Ministry, Hon. Arnaldo Brown made significant strides in efforts to complete the review and revision of Jamaica’s Foreign Trade Policy.
Jamaica’s trade policy was last reviewed in 2001, over 10 years ago. The State Minister pointed out that a number of developments have occurred in international trade since then at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
Mr. Brown said Jamaica’s revised trade policy will take into account all the changes, which have occurred over the last few years, in order to ensure that the country’s trade policies are in line with the rest of the world.
He said the Draft Trade Policy is therefore comprehensive, addressing goods and services, as well as a wide range of trade related measures such as intellectual property rights, international standards, investment, non-tariff measures and trade financing, arising from an increasingly complex trade agenda.
Mr. Brown also noted that it is important for implementation that trade is integrated or mainstreamed into the National Development Plan – Vision 2030 and that there is policy coherence.
In March, the Ministry launched ‘Jamaica 50 Canada’ at the Government Conference Centre in Ottawa, Canada.
Senator Nicholson, who delivered the keynote address at the opening ceremony, noted that the launch represented the “largest gathering of the Jamaican community in one place, anytime, anywhere in Canada,” and that this “represents a reaffirmation of the links between Canada and Jamaica."
Having made the point that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller lends her “full support to the Jamaican Diaspora in its activities in commemoration of the 50th Anniversary of Jamaica’s Independence,” Minister Nicholson noted that Canada was the first of three countries with which Jamaica established diplomatic relations on its assumption of Independence.
“Our relations with Canada are among those of which we are justly proud. I am happy to say that fifty years of relations have brought rich benefits to both sides." He also noted that “these relations will go well beyond those 50 years."