- Your Excellency, Wendy R. Sherman, Deputy Secretary of State of the United States;
- Honourable E.P. Chet Greene, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Immigration and International Trade of Antigua and Barbuda and Pro Tempore Chairman of COFCOR;
- Honourable Ministers of Foreign Affairs of CARICOM.
Deputy Secretary of State, the Community’s engagement with you is very welcome, especially as it comes after several other virtual meetings and calls with Secretary of State Blinken, National Security Adviser Sullivan and other senior Department of State Officials. Since my assumption of office just over a month ago, I have also had the pleasure of receiving courtesy calls from several US officials all of which serves to emphasize the friendly relations which have long existed between us. Geography, shared values and people-to-people links have underpinned the relationship.
It is true, however, that there were times in the past when the continuing strength of the relationship was offset by the infrequency of engagement. In this regard, the Community has always thought it important to put in place a formal mechanism for engagement. The recourse to virtual meetings brought about by the pandemic has facilitated the ease of coming together informally and, consequently, there has been an increase in engagement, which can only redound to our mutual benefit.
The critical challenges we face are not unknown to you, but their gravity is compounded in our Region by the vulnerability of our small states. When we say that we bear a disproportionally large burden of climate change, it is not a political statement, but a scientific fact.
Therefore, when we ask for this fact of our climate vulnerability to be taken appropriately into account when determining access to financing of adaptation to climate change and our post-covid recovery, it is also a reflection of the undue burden that we bear.
The impact of Covid has also been more than proportional on our economies, especially where tourism is the major source of economic activity.
In this regard, I wish to express appreciation for the donation of Pfizer vaccines, the receipt of the first vaccine shipments and the ongoing discussion regarding the scheduling of the second shipments at this time when infection rates are spiking in several of our countries.
It is important for us to be able to effectively address the pandemic so as to be able to focus on the return to economic growth. We are very concerned about the social and security implications for our societies that arise from a lengthy economic downturn and high unemployment.
The Community continues to place great emphasis on the values of good governance and respect for the rule of law and it has not allowed the outbreak of COVID-19 to disrupt the cycle of elections, despite the unique challenges of campaigning and election observation in the restricted circumstances brought about by the public health preventive protocols.
I take this opportunity to welcome the Honourable Fred Mitchell, Foreign Minister of The Bahamas who is attending his first meeting following the recent elections in his country.
In closing, I thank you again for the opportunity for dialogue. The Community’s Foreign Ministers will, no doubt, elaborate on the priority issues on which I have touched on.