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Jamaica urged to take lead in renewed Cuba relations

Published:Monday | December 22, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer

JAMAICA IS being urged to use the "excellent ties" it enjoys with the United States to take a lead role in fostering the renewed relationship between the United States and Cuba.

That is the suggestion being made to the Government by a senior official at the United States Embassy in Kingston.

"If you look at our strategic priorities for Jamaica, we have a shared vision for both people and Government in securing prosperity and efficiency," said counsellor for public affairs in the US Embassy, Joshua Polacheck.

However, he said this comes with a caveat for not just an efficient and responsive, but a democratic Government.

"It is a shared goal that we have with every country which we partner and so Jamaica can definitely play that leadership role regionally and globally."

In announcing the re-establishment of diplomatic relations with Cuba, US President Barack Obama last Wednesday disclosed that he was moving to have Congress lift more than half century long trade and economic embargo.

Roberta Jacobson, assistant secretary of state for Western Hemisphere Affairs, is scheduled to visit Cuba to flesh out diplomatic issues.

In a matter of days, Jacobson is expected to be leading a high-level delegation to Cuba to initiate discussions for establishing full diplomatic relations and the exchange of ambassadors.

But it is Jamaica with which the focus is on to initiate programmes to enhance the US/Cuba relationship in the initial stage.

"What role Jamaica wants to play regionally and globally is up to the Government, but we expect some form of lead," said Polacheck.

He said by removing one of the last vestiges of the Cold War era that has served as a barrier to regional integration, the way has been cleared to open up Cuba's potential to the Eastern Caribbean, as well as Africa and Europe.

"That is going to be necessary and this is where I think Jamaica comes into the equation," said Polacheck. "The removal of barriers is likely to produce huge opportunities for economic as well as other forms of growth."

Polacheck also expressed hope that the region will, in this dispensation, make additional use of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).

He suggested that at present, CARICOM states were not exploiting the full benefits of the CBI.

Polacheck was responding to concerns that more benefits have not been forthcoming to the region with Obama's election to the US presidency six years ago.

"There are opportunities for the Caribbean such as special bi-lateral arrangements with Haiti," he said.

He also pointed to the North American Free Trade Agreement, an agreement signed by Canada, Mexico, and the United States, creating a trilateral rules-based trade bloc in North America.

The agreement which came into force on January 1, 1994, superseded the Canada-United States Free Trade Agreement between the US and Canada and opened arrangements with Latin American states.