Elizabeth Morgan | US/CARICOM – Bahamas meeting with Vice President Harris
As an update on my article from last week on plastics pollution, it was announced by the UN that agreement was reached on preparing the first draft of the plastics pollution treaty. This first draft should be ready by the end of this year. Producers, traders and consumers need to pay attention to the work on this treaty.
There are two major meetings happening this week involving Jamaica and CARICOM partners. These are the meeting of Commonwealth trade ministers in London, June 5-6, and the meeting of CARICOM Heads of Government with the US Vice President Kamala Harris, in The Bahamas on June 8. This latter meeting comes in June, which is being observed as US-Caribbean National Heritage Month. The month celebrates the achievements of Americans of Caribbean heritage.
In this article, I will focus on the US/CARICOM meeting.
FROM SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS
This meeting seems to be a follow-up to that held at the time of the ninth Summit of the Americas in June 2022 in Los Angeles. CARICOM leaders and the president of the Dominican Republic met with Vice President Harris on June 9, 2022. The focus was then on climate change, energy and COVID-19. Vice President Harris then announced the US-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis (PACC 2030).
This was a new initiative aimed at elevating US cooperation with Caribbean countries to support climate adaptation, strengthen energy security, and accelerate the transition to clean energy. The intent was also to build resilience to climate change into critical infrastructure and local economies. PACC 2030 would be specifically focused on improving access to development financing, a Caribbean priority.
It was further reported that PACC 2030 would work to expand existing access to project financing and unlock new financing mechanisms to support climate and clean energy infrastructure development in the region. Key actions would include increased financing from the US International Development Finance Corporation for climate and clean energy projects in underserved Caribbean countries, as well as collaborating with multilateral development banks and climate and environmental trust funds to improve the policy environment and unlock access to additional infrastructure financing for the Caribbean.
At the Summit of the Americas, CARICOM leaders had also met with President Biden who sought to assure them that they were valued as partners and the US wanted to strengthen that partnership. President Biden, at the time, had also announced an Americas Partnership for Economic Prosperity.
AGENDA OF THE BAHAMAS MEETING
On the website of the US State Department, there is an impressive list of engagements (the Fact Sheet) which the USA has had with the Caribbean States. It covers food security, energy security, climate change, actions since the Summit of the Americas, diplomatic engagements, and humanitarian assistance up to February this year.
It seems the meeting in The Bahamas will focus on climate change and I assume that discussions will be on the implementation of the PACC 2030 initiative. The State Department Fact Sheet seems to give a clear idea of the agenda for The Bahamas meeting.
Development financing will be an important issue as it is what CARICOM countries need and several have been graduated from development finance being classified as upper middle income or high income countries. This situation prompted the Bridgetown Initiative.
Recall that the Bridgetown Initiative was proposed by Barbados’ prime minister. It envisages the reform of the international financial system especially taking account of the needs of climate vulnerable small island developing states, and aims at forging a new contact between the north and south on the climate change crisis and development. Recall also that France will host the related Summit for a ‘New Global Financial Pact’, June 22-23 in Paris. I assume Barbados will raise this initiative and the Paris Summit at the Bahamas meeting.
I see trade being addressed only indirectly at this meeting. As we know, the USA is the primary trading partner of CARICOM Member States and has maintained a surplus with the region. The CARICOM Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Trade Negotiations, chaired by Jamaica’s Prime Minister Andrew Holness, met recently.
It seems the sub-committee wants to use the region’s Trade and Investment Framework Agreement (TIFA) with the USA more strategically. It will be recalled that the CARICOM region has a non-reciprocal trading arrangement with the USA, the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI).
The other trade-related instrument is the US/CARICOM TIFA. The hope is that the US/CARICOM Trade and Investment Council (TIC) will meet this year. It last met in 2019. The US Trade Representative has not attended these meetings in years. Perhaps, the level of this meeting should be raised with the vice president.
It will be interesting as usual to see how frank the CARICOM heads will be with the US vice president about the region’s partnership with the USA, especially in light of recent global developments.
Is this important partnership, of which President Biden spoke, actually being seen and felt in CARICOM, in spite of the fact sheet’s list of items, and especially in areas such as development finance?
Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to firstname.lastname@example.org