It is my honour and privilege to speak on the work of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.
My Ministry has a serious responsibility on behalf of all Jamaicans. We must consider developments in the international arena, see how they affect our national interests and help determine Jamaica’s best response.
We must identify challenges and help to address them, seek out opportunities and help to pursue them. We must promote and protect the interests of each and every Jamaican at all times.
It is a fundamental truth that the welfare and fortunes of every Jamaican are affected by world events and by how we as a Government and a country react to these events.
Global Financial Crisis and the Foreign Policy Agenda
Mr. Speaker, we meet today in a world that is significantly different from the one in which we met when last I spoke in this debate, on June 25, 2008. At that time, the storm clouds of the global financial crisis were gathering but its catastrophic dimensions were not immediately apparent.
The global financial and economic system has been battered by this crisis and no aspect of life has been spared its effect.
.The global economy will contract by 1.4% in 2009
.51 million people could lose their jobs this year
.The World Bank predicts that remittance flows to developing countries will decline by 7.3% in 2009.
.In Jamaica, net remittances from January to May this year declined by 14.6% or double the world average.
In this scenario the appetite for development cooperation has been reduced.
Mr. Speaker, this global crisis which began in the developed world now poses its greatest threat to small, developing economies like Jamaica.
These are the countries that have contributed least to the global financial crisis and currently have the least influence on international financial decision-making.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade is using all appropriate diplomatic and foreign policy resources to help Jamaica confront the crisis, while paying full attention to other critically important issues including:
.The promotion and protection of the welfare of Jamaicans;
.Climate change and the urgency of committed global responses to counter its grave threat to the survival of our planet;
.Trade policy, especially the challenges of lack of productivity and competitiveness;
.Developments in CARICOM, including our efforts to deal with challenges related to free movement of peoples and trade in goods;
.Developments in our hemisphere, including strengthening of regional integration and development in Latin America and the Caribbean and issues of democratic governance.
The Caribbean and the Americas
Mr. Speaker, a fundamental priority in our foreign policy is the regional integration process and the deepening of our relations within the Caribbean.
Though there may be differences of view about the contributions made by CARICOM, there can be no question that such a mechanism of cooperation and integration among the territories of this region is indispensable.
Over the past months we have witnessed significant debates within the region concerning the direction of the Community.
There are indeed challenges to be overcome and developments to be understood. Nevertheless, I am happy to say that we are emerging from these debates with a renewed commitment to improving the welfare of all nationals of the Caribbean and strengthening our integration movement.
Much of the debate has focused on the functioning of the Single Market, the pace and scope of further deepening and widening of our Community, and the challenges posed by our engagements with a number of external partners.
So far,
.We have confronted the issues of impediments to the free movement of Caribbean nationals;
.We have confronted the issue of barriers to trade in goods and the lack of progress in adopting rules of the game that are transparent and in the interest of the Community as a whole;
.We are confronting the crisis facing our region arising from the global financial crisis and the impact on the people of the region.
Mr. Speaker, in doing so in a forthright manner, we have placed the regional integration process on a more stable footing.
CARICOM Heads of Government have reemphasised their commitment to the goal of free movement.
They reaffirmed that all eligible categories of Skilled Community Nationals must be granted a definite entry of six months if they present their Skills Certificate at the point of entry, and will have the right to work immediately.
During that period (six months), the receiving country has the right to verify the qualifications of the skilled national.
They also re-affirmed that nationals who are moving to exercise the right of establishment, the provision of services and the movement of skills have the right to move with their spouse and immediate dependent family members.
They agreed that as of January 2010, household workers with appropriate certification, hospitality workers and appropriately registered Informal Commercial Traders can join the categories of those who can move freely in the region.
In the area of trade in goods, we have cleared barriers for the entry of our products.
We are leading the process to ensure the implementation of a more secure, rules-based approach to this vitally important aspect of regional commerce.
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