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Obama to Discuss IMF Deal With PM

Published:Wednesday | April 8, 2015 | 4:00 AM

Details of the high-level talks to be held between United States President Barack Obama and Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller have been revealed by the White House in a press call with members of the media. The conference call, facilitated by Ben Rhodes, deputy national security adviser for strategic communications, and Ricardo Zuniga, senior director for Western Hemisphere Affairs in the National Security Council, previewed the president's travel to Jamaica and Panama ahead of the Summit of the Americas.

Rhodes indicated that the president's visit to Jamaica was motivated by Jamaica's performance in the International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme through its extended fund facility.

"In Jamaica, the president will have an opportunity to speak with Prime Minister Simpson Miller about our strong support for Jamaica's work to deal with its debt and fiscal crisis," he said. He also said that the IMF programme would take centre stage. "The country's strong performance over the last two years in working with the IMF, the World Bank, and others to address that (the debt crisis) will also be discussed."

Responding to questions from The Gleaner regarding observations that the Obama presidency has not shown much interest in the Caribbean, Zuniga noted that the president's visit affirms that the region is of strategic importance to the US.

"We feel that the CARICOM region does deserve greater attention from the United States. That is why we are focusing on energy because when looking at the region, we saw that a number of CARICOM countries have significant energy needs," he said.

He added: "There are enormous familial connections; there is a significant immigrant population here in the US; and there is shared interest on issues such as immigration, energy, economic growth, climate change, tourism, and people-to-people exchanges."

Zuniga also made note of the fact that the president's focus on hosting a youth town hall meeting in Jamaica is indicative of the fact that the US is investing in the youth of the Caribbean. This, he said, sends a signal about Obama's personal commitment to the region and the growing importance of the Caribbean to the United States. When pressed on whether there would be any major announcements or trade deals, Zuniga declined to reveal details but indicated that the meeting with the Jamaican prime minister and other CARICOM leaders would focus on a wide range of issues.

"We would anticipate that we will have an agenda that covers security and energy, among other items. There will be a number of concrete outcomes within that agenda," he said.