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United States passes legislation to strengthen relations with the Caribbean

Published:Friday | December 16, 2016 | 12:00 AMDerrick Scott

Legislation to enhance the United States' engagement with the Caribbean has been sent to President Barack Obama's desk for signature after it was passed by the US House of Representatives and Senate.

Ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel, and former chairman of the Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen made the announcement this week on Capitol Hill, pointing out that the act calls for a new long-term strategy to strengthen ties between the US and its Caribbean neighbours.

The US-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (HR 4939) will strengthen relations with the Caribbean by requiring the secretary of state and the administrator of the US Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean.

The legislation puts particular emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanding diplomacy, and providing educational exchange opportunities for citizens of the Caribbean.

MULTI-YEAR STRATEGY

In reacting to the bill's passage, Engel, one of the authors of the legislation, said: "At a time when our friends in the Caribbean need us more than ever, this bill will prioritise our partnership with the sub-region for many years to come. It is long past time to have a multi-year strategy that will allow us to increase engagement with the Caribbean, especially when it comes to energy and security."

Engel pointed out that "the countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in our country."

He said he was looking forward to working with the Caribbean-American diaspora to ensure that they could provide input to the State Department and USAID on US relations with the Caribbean in the years ahead.

"With constant crises around the globe that demand US attention, we must not lose sight of our long-term interests close to home," Engel said.

In her remarks, Ros-Lehtinen said, "I am honoured to work alongside my friend and colleague, Eliot Engel, in order to send this important legislation aimed at prioritising our bilateral relationships with allies in the Caribbean to the president's desk."