President of the Republic of Chile, His Excellency Sebastián Piñera, has expressed interest in entering into negotiations on a free trade-agreement with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).
Mr. Piñera said the Chilean Government, which already has free-trade agreements with more than 70 countries in the world, has been looking forward to starting this process “for a long period of time”.
He was addressing the third plenary session at the 39th Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of CARICOM on Friday (July 6), at the Montego Bay Convention Centre, in St. James.
The Chilean President said his country has a history of being a very open economy and is of the strong belief that free trade is the best way to achieve development.
Jamaica is already benefiting from Chile’s assistance in building capacity in the areas of trade policy and trade promotion. This is being facilitated under a Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) for technical cooperation between the Export Promotion Bureau (ProChile) and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO), which was signed last year.
Mr. Piñera explained that under the agreement, both countries will organise an annual plan that will include training programmes and also aims to increase bilateral trade.
ProChile assists small and medium-sized enterprises in their trade expansion efforts by leveraging the opportunities afforded by recent trade agreements, fostering public-private partnerships, and helping to position Chile in the international marketplace.
The President also pledged to continue to strengthen his country’s scientific and technical cooperation with CARICOM as well as provide better assistance in mitigating the impact of natural disasters.
In his remarks, Prime Minister, the Most Hon. Andrew Holness, thanked the President for his country’s continued cooperation on a wide range of areas, including technical assistance in the form of training courses in natural resources, agriculture, health and nutrition, international negotiations with diplomatic training and foreign language training for high-school teachers in trilateral cooperation with the Government of Mexico.
“On behalf of my colleague Heads of Government, I would like to assure you that these programmes are of great importance to CARICOM and make a significant contribution to the community’s efforts to boost its human-resource capacity and expertise in these critical areas,” he said.
Mr. Holness said CARICOM also appreciates the technical assistance provided through the various training programmes that have been offered in the areas of disaster management, and look forward to continued collaboration in this critical area.
The Prime Minister said the Community greatly appreciates Chile’s understanding of the challenges facing small island developing states (SIDS), and thanked the country for registering its readiness “to stand by this vulnerable category of countries”.
Mr. Piñera was specially invited to attend the meeting of CARICOM Heads which began on July 4 and ends today.
The Conference of Heads of Government, which consists of the Heads of Government of the Member States, is the supreme organ of the Caribbean Community and determines and provides its policy direction.