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Remarks by Dr. Carla Barnett, CARICOM Secretary-General, at the CARICOM-JAPAN Exchange Reception and the official launch of the CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year 2024, 26 March, Tokyo, Japan

  • Your Excellency Yōko Kamikawa, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Japan;
  • Other Officials of the Government of Japan;
  • Members of the Diplomatic Corps;
  • Ms. Elizabeth Solomon, Assistant Secretary General, Foreign and Community Relations, CARICOM Secretariat;
  • Delegates of the ‘JUNTOS’ Japan-CARICOM Exchange Programme for Young Diplomats;
  • Other Distinguished Guests;
  • Ladies and Gentlemen.

It is an honour for me to celebrate with you, the official launch of the 2024 CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year.

I express appreciation to the Government and People of Japan for the warm welcome and generous hospitality extended since our arrival.

Your Excellency, on behalf of the Caribbean Community, I again express deep condolences to the Government and people of Japan as you continue to recover fromthe devastating earthquake that struck the Noto Peninsula in January.

During this mission, I have had the distinct pleasure of visiting Asakusa and the Meiji Shrine, both showcasing some of the rich tapestry of Japan’s culture and history. I have also been seeing the emerging pink and white cherry blossoms across Tokyo, signalling the arrival of spring.

Ladies and gentlemen, the relationship between CARICOM and Japan is also blossoming with renewed cooperation and growing partnership.

Japan has remained an important partner for the Caribbean Community since we 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.

This 2024 CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year marks the 30th Anniversary of the first CARICOM-Japan Consultation, and we have had engagements at various levels since then. In 2014, we engaged at the Level of our Heads of Government. We have had seven Ministerial Meetings and 19 Consultations on Technical Cooperation among senior officials from CARICOM Member States and Japan. This visit is leading to accelerated coordination of preparations for the Eighth CARICOM-Japan Ministerial Meeting to be held in the fourth quarter of this year.

Excellencies, ladies and gentlemen, over the past two days we have had fruitful exchanges with a range of officials from the Japan International Cooperation Agency, the Japan-Caribbean Parliamentary Friendship League and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs. We will follow-up on our discussions on enhancing our cooperation so that by the time Ministers meet, there is a substantive program [on which] to agree.

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.

I congratulate Japan on its current Presidency of the UN Security Council, preceded by that of Guyana, in February, and note our common purpose in maintaining international peace and stability.  This is of particular value to the Caribbean which we are anxious to maintain as a Zone of Peace.

Over the years, we have partnered on wide range projects. These include the development of small and medium-sized enterprises, agriculture and fisheries, information technology, environmental conservation, disaster management, climate change, energy, culture and tourism.

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 in Japan of Caribbean music and our products, including rum and coffee, and the growing popularity of Japanese cuisine in the Caribbean.

As Japan prepares to host the 2025 World Expo in Osaka next year, I encourage our Caribbean artisans to join the Expo under the sponsorship programme Japan has launched.

Excellencies, the 2024 CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year provides a crucial opportunity for us to recognise our achievements and commit to working together to shape a more resilient, sustainable, and mutually prosperous future, for generations to come.

Long live the CARICOM-Japan partnership.

Thank you very much.

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