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CARICOM Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett conducts visit to Japan

CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana – Tuesday, 26 March 2024:  Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretary-General, Dr. Carla Barnett concluded a two-day visit to Japan where she met with high-level government officials and participated in the launch of the CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year 2024, and JUNTOS, Japan-CARICOM Exchange Programme for Young Diplomats. 

2024 was designated CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year to mark the 30th anniversary of the first Japan-CARICOM Consultation, and the 60th anniversary of the establishment of diplomatic relations between Japan and Jamaica, and Trinidad and Tobago, respectively.

The inaugural Japan-CARICOM Friendship Year was celebrated in 2014 to mark the 20th anniversary of the first Japan-CARICOM Consultation. Several high-profile events were held that year including the first CARICOM-Japan Summit in Trinidad and Tobago. The summit was attended by the late Prime Minister of Japan, H.E. Shinzo Abe, the first Japanese Prime Minister to visit the Region. 

Speaking at the reception in Tokyo on 26 March, Dr. Barnett said Japan has remained an important partner for the Community since they established formal diplomatic relations in 1993.

“We attach great value to the enduring bonds of friendship that have been forged over the years. Our partnership is built on a foundation of mutual respect, shared values, and a genuine desire to collaborate for the benefit of our peoples,” the Secretary-General said.

Japan’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Her Excellency Yoko Kamikawa stated that Japan and CARICOM countries are important partners, sharing values and principles in an international situation where cooperation among such countries is becoming more important than ever.

To date, CARICOM and Japan have had a Heads of Government summit, seven Ministerial meetings, and 19 Consultations between senior officials on the two sides.

The Secretary-General noted their technical cooperation which redound to critical support to CARICOM in small and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and fisheries, information technology, environmental conservation, disaster management, climate change, energy, culture and tourism. She also highlighted CARICOM-Japan cooperation at the multilateral level, stating:

“While the focus of CARICOM-Japan relations has primarily been on technical cooperation, through the CARICOM-Japan Friendship and Cooperation Fund (JCFCF) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), there has also been collaboration and support at the multilateral level. In this regard, I extend appreciation to Japan for its support to the Community over the years on the vulnerability of Small Island and Low-lying Coastal Developing States (SIDS). Your leadership in recognising vulnerability as an important criterion for concessional financing and moving away from GDP per capita as the only standard, has been much welcomed.”

At the launch event on Tuesday, Dr. Barnett also highlighted the cultural and skills exchange programmes which form significant elements of CARICOM-Japan relations. 

“The Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme, the Scholarship Programme for Research Students and the CARICOM-Japan Young Diplomats Exchange are examples of people-to-people exchanges that strengthen relations at all levels.

Our cultural links continue to deepen, as signaled by the popularity of Caribbean music and our products, including rum and coffee in Japan and the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine in the Caribbean,” Dr. Barnett stated. 

So far, more than 800 participants from the Region have benefited from the JUNTOS Programme. Fifteen CARICOM nationals are currently participating in the programme in Japan from 21 – 29 March. The programme includes the dispatch of Japanese professionals to CARICOM Member States and CARICOM Institutions and provides opportunities for young professionals to learn about the Japanese economy, foreign policy, culture, and environmental policy. 

CARICOM nationals have also participated in the Japan Exchange and Teaching (JET) Programme through which CARICOM nationals teach in Japanese schools. 

CARICOM Assistant Secretary-General for Foreign and Community Relations, Ms. Elizabeth Solomon accompanied the Secretary-General to Japan. They also met with government officials including the Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan, Her Excellency Yōko Kamikawa; the Parliamentary Vice Minister for Foreign Affairs, Mr. Tsuge Yoshifumi and senior officials from other state agencies.

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