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Jamaica and Spain have signed bilateral agreements facilitating air services between both countries, and allowing dependents of staff of either country’s embassy to seek employment on a mutual basis.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, and Spain’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Co-operation, Ambassador Miguel Angel Moratinos, signed the agreements on behalf of their Governments, during a brief ceremony at Jamaica House, today (Feb 17).
The signings were preceded by meetings between delegations from both countries, headed by the Ministers, which were also held at Jamaica House.
They were part of the activities of the two-day State visit of His Majesty, King Juan Carlos I , and Queen Sofia, of Spain, February 17-18.
In a brief address following the signings, Dr. Baugh said the Air Services Agreement was first proposed for signing by Jamaica in 2005, consequent on the “substantial Spanish investment in Jamaica’s tourism, in particular the hotel industry.”
The agreement will facilitate any number of airlines and flights, to transport passengers between both countries, thereby enabling greater movement of travellers.
“This should contribute to the continued increase of Spanish visitors to Jamaica, who will be able to enjoy the hospitality at the many new hotels and resorts that have been developed on the North Coast over the last few years,” Dr. Baugh pointed out.
He said that upwards of 17,000 Spanish visitors travelled to Jamaica in 2007, more than doubling the figure of the previous year, and Spain currently accounts for the third highest number of tourists out of Europe coming to the island.
The Foreign Affairs Minister further pointed out that Spain has established itself as a leader in the Caribbean hotel and tourism industry, “managing close to 50 per cent of the accommodation on offer in the region.”
“Over the past six years in Jamaica, Spanish hotel firms have developed more than 20 hotels and resorts on the North Coast, and are currently developing more. When completed, these will add 10,670 more rooms, bringing the national capacity to 31,000 rooms,” he said.
“This investment from Spanish companies is in the order of US$1.48 billion, and has created, directly and indirectly, 40,000 jobs on this country,” Dr. Baugh outlined.
Regarding the Agreement on the Remunerated Employment for Dependents of Diplomatic, Consular, Administrative and Technical Personnel of Diplomatic and Consular Missions, he said this will enable the dependents of staff members at Missions, on both sides to seek employment.
Dr. Baugh disclosed that during the meeting the parties reviewed their bilateral co-operation programme, particularly in the areas of education, agriculture, health, tourism, and cultural heritage. Both sides also discussed collaboration, at the regional and international levels, as well as global issues, inclusive of the financial crisis, climate change and natural disasters and their effect on small island developing states.
In expressing gratitude for Spain’s continued economic development support, Dr. Baugh underscored that Jamaica considered Spain a true friend.
“And (the fact) that the Spanish sovereigns could take time to visit our island, is testimony of the high regard in which Spain has placed Jamaica,” he added.
Ambassador Moratinos said he was gratified by Jamaica’s accommodation of Spanish investments, primarily in tourism.
He that these investments have increased over the last few years, and that during Tuesday’s working session at Jamaica House, several possibilities for future co-operation resonated.
“We could not be satisfied merely with the presence of Spanish tourists in Jamaica, and involvement in the Jamaican tourist industry. We have to look further. We are, in fact, considering co-operation in many other areas, such as capacity building, water, training, agriculture, transport: all aspects of economic co-operation and development,” he stated.
Ambassador Moratinos said both countries agreed to pursue an action plan, to follow up on these discussions and agreements reached during the visit.
He also disclosed that Transport and Works Minister, Mike Henry, is scheduled to visit Spain next week for discussions with his counterparts there.