“Thank you, Prime Minister Skerrit, for your very kind and generous introduction. I am honored to be here for the Forty-Fifth CARICOM Heads of Government Conference. This is my second international trip as House Democratic Leader, but first to the Western Hemisphere. It’s an honor to touch down in the Caribbean.
I want to first acknowledge all of the CARICOM heads of government and dignitaries here today. Thank you to CARICOM Secretary General Ms. Carla Barnett for your leadership of this incredibly important multilateral organization.
Secretary of State Blinken, thank you for your phenomenal representation of the Biden-Harris administration on the global stage and all that you are doing to strengthen the relationship between the United States and the Caribbean region.
Since January, I have had the privilege of serving as House Democratic Leader. In Congress, I represent the 8th Congressional district in Brooklyn, home to one of the largest Caribbean-American communities in the nation. Indeed, on any given weekend back at home, particularly during the summer months, you can hear Calypso, Soca, Reggae or Dancehall – and think you were on an island nation.
I want to introduce the U.S. Congressional Delegation joining me today.
- Rep. Radewagen of American Samoa, a leading Republican voice on the Foreign Affairs Committee;
- Rep. Meeks of New York, he is the top Democrat on the Foreign Affairs Committee and a leader in strengthening the relationship between the United States and the Caribbean;
- Rep. Horsford of Nevada, Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus and a House leader with Trinidadian roots;
- Rep. Clarke of New York, the first Vice Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, a fellow Brooklynite and a member of the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee. She also proudly hails from the Island Nation of Jamaica;
- Rep. Beatty of Ohio, the immediate past Chair of the Congressional Black Caucus, and a leader on the Financial Services Committee on issues related to international financial institutions and sovereign debt; and
- Rep. Castro of Texas, the top Democrat on the Western Hemisphere subcommittee and former Chair of the Congressional Hispanic Caucus.
The members of the delegation are all leaders in Congress who are committed to a strong partnership with CARICOM.
Thank you, Prime Minister Dr. Keith Rowley, and our hosts here in Trinidad and Tobago—what an honor and a privilege to join you on the 50th anniversary of CARICOM. Happy Birthday!
This is a historic moment as we celebrate the founding CARICOM treaty signed here 50 years ago and renew our commitment to being the best possible neighbors to each other.
The region is stronger because of multilateral partnerships like the one forged by CARICOM five decades ago, and our collective future will be brighter because of the continued relationships that bind this organization together.
Our trip to CARICOM builds on the historic Summit of the Americas hosted by President Biden in Los Angeles and on efforts Vice President Harris has engaged in with Caribbean leaders over the past year, most recently in the Bahamas.
To begin with, let me reiterate on behalf of the Congressional delegation, our unshakeable commitment to the financial health, security and economic well-being of the Caribbean region.
We are here to make clear that the CARICOM nations are not an afterthought. We value this relationship. We are neighbors. We have shared democratic values. We have mutual security concerns. We have common economic interests.
And we are stronger together.
Let me briefly focus my remarks on three areas: Economic Growth and Development; Regional Security and Public Safety; and Energy and the Climate Crisis.
We are determined to make sure Caribbean nations have access to the capital you need to grow and prosper. We want to help facilitate the continued development of a market-based economy that thrives. And we want to help you address the sovereign debt issues that serve as a constraint to investment in a manner that is fair and equitable.
To further support the region in both 2022 and 2023, Congress appropriated over $80 million for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative and tens of millions for new initiatives to promote inclusive economic growth, strengthen resilience to natural disasters and for the Caribbean Energy Initiative.
It is also important that we focus on your security and enhance public safety in the region. Indeed, public safety is a prerequisite to prosperity. In that regard, we are committed to enhancing cooperation and information sharing between our respective law enforcement agencies, including through Crime Gun Intelligence Units.
We must disrupt the gun trafficking and violent crime plaguing the region by stopping the shipments of arms and holding traffickers accountable to the full extent of the law.
This includes building on historic legislation passed by the United States Congress and signed into law last year, the Bipartisan Safer Communities Act. For the first time in American history, straw purchasing and trafficking are federal crimes.
This legislative tool will help us help you deal with the rising tide of gun violence many of your nations confront.
We want to make sure that the energy needs of the Caribbean are met in a manner that is both reliable and sustainable. At the same time our country is committed to addressing the climate crisis with the fierce urgency of now. We began that process with the passage of the historic Inflation Reduction Act. But more must be done.
In that regard, a key pillar in our collective effort will be the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030 (PACC 2030) that the Biden-Harris administration launched last year.
The United States and other developed nations have disproportionately contributed to greenhouse gas emissions and the rise of extreme weather events throughout the world. We agree that it is our responsibility to be a big part of the solution.
Thank you for extending this invitation to our Congressional delegation. We look forward to a comprehensive, clear eyed and candid discussion of the issues we collectively confront. A lot has been accomplished by CARICOM over the past 50 years but there is still a lot of work to do for the benefit of our shared neighborhood in the Western Hemisphere. Together, I am confident that through our ongoing cooperation and collaboration, the best is yet to come.”