Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Trinidad and Tobago's Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran has likened the impasse between his country and Jamaica to an inflamed nerve and suggested that, if left unchecked, it could explode into a trade war that would have negative repercussions on both countries.
Yesterday, Dookeran and Jamaica's Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson opted not to field questions from journalists, but both ministers seized the moment to signal that they were determined to use the next two days to transform relations in a more positive one.
And while Nicholson highlighted what Jamaicans expected from Trinidad, Dookeran was quick to reassure him that he was determined to find solutions to the row.
"We are not here to appease but to find solutions, by engaging in open and constructive discussions," the Trinidadian declared.
J'cans not pleased
Nicholson told Dookeran in the presence of journalists who got a glimpse of the first day of talks that Jamaicans were displeased by a number of recent occurrences.
"The treatment meted out to Jamaicans at Piarco International Airport and the sharp increase in the number of Jamaicans being returned from Trinidad and Tobago have together generated considerable public outrage, particularly in the wake of the Shanique Myrie ruling by the Caribbean Court of Justice," said Nicholson.
Added Nicholson: "It has diminished the goodwill on the part of many Jamaicans at home and in the diaspora towards Trinidad and Tobago."
Referring to the planned boycott of products out of Trinidad and Tobago, Nicholson said what Dookeran already knew - that the souring of relations between the two countries has threatened to change patterns of consumption in Jamaica.
"We hope to lay a foundation over the next two days that will redound to our mutual benefit," said Nicholson.
Dookeran assured Nicholson that the government of Trinidad and Tobago was willing to work out a solution. "In Trinidad and Tobago, we are concerned about the need for improved trade space that has been diminished by the working of globalism."
He disclosed that he had earlier met with influential stakeholders in Jamaica, including the Jamaica Exporters' Association, the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association; the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica; and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.