WASHINGTON — Prime Minister, the Hon. Bruce Golding, during his recent visit to Washington DC, met with several members of the powerful United States (US) Senate Foreign Relations Committee on Capitol Hill, where he discussed areas for collaboration, while highlighting a number of positive things that are happening in the country.
Among the areas for partnership, cited by the Prime Minister, was in the development of a US-Jamaica university programme as part of an initiative to build stronger relations between the countries. Both nations, he said, would benefit from lower educational costs in Jamaica.
Also proposed was collaboration in health care, which could involve Jamaican facilities hosting patients recuperating from major medical procedures in the US, and a widening of existing trade relations to include services-type activities such as information technology, education services, and cultural industries.
At the meeting, hosted by New Jersey Democratic Senator, Robert Menendez,
Mr. Golding also renewed the appeal for special consideration for countries such as Jamaica that face high indebtedness.
“We have been making the case at the international level for middle-income countries like Jamaica not to be penalised for their successes,” the Prime Minister told the eight US law makers with whom he met.
He elaborated that Jamaica, which is classified as a middle-income country, is not eligible for many of the concessions or considerations available to countries classified as poor even though faced with similar pressures from high indebtedness.
Senator Menendez, who is Chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee’s Subcommittee on Western Hemisphere, Peace Corps, and Global Narcotics Affairs, noted the recent financial and social sector reforms in Jamaica.
Responding to the Senator’s query about support from the multilateral financial institutions with these measures, Mr. Golding said the Jamaican government had asked for an extension of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) agreement and indicated that the agency has been very responsive to Jamaica’s efforts.
The Prime Minister also highlighted the positive results of the reforms, including the lowest interest rates in decades; low inflation rates; stable exchange rates; and high net international reserves.
Turning to drug trafficking, Senator Menendez acknowledged the challenges facing Jamaica in this area. The Prime Minister, noting that Jamaica is a trans-shipment point for illegal drugs moving to the US from South America, said the country faced resource constraints in addressing the issue.
He pointed to the need for greater information sharing and collaboration against illegal drugs, and reiterated the specific request for assistance with equipment and other resources to stem the flow of weapons into the island.
The other Senators at the Capitol Hill meeting, held in honour of the Prime Minister, included: Harry Reid (Majority Leader); Christopher Coons (Delaware); Marco Rubio (Florida); Benjamin Cardin (Maryland); Robert Casey (Pennsylvania); Tom Udall (New Mexico); and Frank R. Lautenberg (New Jersey), who is also Vice Chair for Homeland Security.
Mr. Golding was accompanied by Ambassador to the US, Her Excellency Audrey P. Marks, and Permanent Secretary in the Office of the Prime Minister, Onika Miller.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee oversees important decisions pertaining to Western Hemisphere affairs. It plays a vital role in shaping US foreign policy towards Jamaica, and is also responsible for overseeing the US foreign policy agencies, such as the State Department; US Agency for International Development (USAID); Millennium Challenge Corporation; and the Peace Corps.
The Committee reviews and considers all diplomatic nominations and international treaties, as well as legislation relating to US foreign policy.
During his five-day visit to Washington, DC, Prime Minister Golding held bilateral meetings with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton. He also met with the President of the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), Luis Moreno; President of the World Bank, Robert Zoellick; and Deputy Managing Director of the International Monetary Fund, Mr. Naoyuki Shinohara.
In addition, Mr. Golding delivered a lecture at the prestigious Brookings Institute and had a luncheon and a series of private meetings with high net-worth US-based investors including three billionaires.
He launched the IDB art exhibition, which featured the works of nine Jamaican artists; addressed delegates at the IDB Forum on Caribbean Investment and Development; and spoke at a reception hosted in his honor by Ambassador Marks, where he had an opportunity to meet with a wide cross-section of Jamaicans as well as friends of the island.
By DERRICK SCOTT, JIS Reporter