Sun | Aug 20, 2017

Foreign Ministry Lobbying For Special Visa Regime

Published:Thursday | January 19, 2017 | 1:00 AMSyranno Baines
Kamina Johnson Smith

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Kamina Johnson Smith is to lobby the European Union (EU) for the creation of a special visa regime for professionals and artistes seeking to operate under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

"The EU visa is a sensitive issue as we're not where we would want to be as a country to meet the Schengen criteria and to make an application for a waiver," Johnson Smith told The Gleaner. The Schengen Agreement is a treaty creating Europe's Schengen Area, which abolished internal border checks.

She added: "Our focus on EU is a special visa regime for persons seeking to move under the EPA such as artistes, business people, engineers, accountants, etc. We have to be realistic about what we want to achieve and the impact that it will have and, unfortunately, where we are with the Schengen criteria, it's not a realistic solution right now."

Johnson Smith disclosed that she advocated for the move while in Belgium for a series of African, Caribbean & Pacific - European Union (EU) meetings in December. The topic was also raised with a visiting team, which met with the foreign ministry in November, in addition to meeting with the head of the EU delegation in Jamaica, Malgorzata Wasilewska.

Meanwhile, Johnson Smith says that the Foreign Ministry continues to monitor Brexit (Britain's exit from the EU).

She stated: "On behalf of the Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States, which I chair for the next six months, I have requested meetings with the UK secretaries for international trade and development cooperation. We will also continue to speak with our various contacts in the UK and monitor the situation to protect our preferential trade terms under the EPA, which currently guides our trade with the United Kingdom."