Sunday 25 October, 2020

PM Rowley highlights T&T's foreign policy in first UNGA speech

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley delivered his first address at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York in Friday.

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley delivered his first address at the 74th United Nations General Assembly in New York in Friday.

In his first address at the 74th United Nations General Assembly, Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley made clear this country’s foreign policy stance on several matters and joined the chorus of Caribbean voices advocating on issues such as financial blacklisting.

Delivering the address on Friday evening, the Prime Minister called for, among other things, a lifting of sanctions against Cuba, the continuation of negotiations with Venezuela and called on international banks to develop new parameters for corresponding banking.

On Venezuela, the Prime Minister informed the international community about his Government’s Migrant Registration Framework (MRF) system for both documented and undocumented persons who entered the country.

“The aim of the Framework is to safeguard the human rights and humanitarian needs of Venezuelan nationals within our borders while safeguarding national interests, such as national security.  Those who were registered were granted approval to work for one year, in the first instance.  It should be noted that this registration process afforded those persons the opportunity to be self-funded through employment during their stay in Trinidad and Tobago,” he said.

Reiterating Caricom’s non-interventionist stance regarding Venezuela, Dr Rowley said that for our region to remain a Zone of Peace, dialogue is critical and indispensable.

Venezuelans lining up to be registered earlier this year in the Migrant Registration Programme.

“As such, Trinidad and Tobago remains in full support of the Montevideo Mechanism and any other suitable initiatives that seek to bring about a peaceful resolution through meaningful and constructive dialogue.

“We recognise that, in order to achieve meaningful progress, the negotiation process requires time and patience, and all parties must engage in good faith. We, therefore, urge external forces not to further engage in unilateral intrusions, which could potentially undermine the negotiations and ultimately cause further hardship for the Venezuelan people,” he advised.

On the topic of Cuba, Dr Rowley called for the removal of embargoes against the island.

“History has taught us that the maintenance of international peace and security cannot be separated from sustainable development. In this regard, we maintain that the economic, commercial and financial embargo imposed against Cuba, a Caribbean nation, which has been in place for almost six decades, undermines the country’s potential to achieve sustainable development and economic growth,” he said.

“Trinidad and Tobago maintain further that the imposition of unilateral coercive measures against Cuba under the Helms-Burton Act is inconsistent with international law and the Charter of the United Nations. Trinidad and Tobago thus reiterate its call for the unconditional lifting of the economic, commercial and financial embargo against Cuba.”

Addressing the international financial challenges faced by Caribbean countries, Dr Rowley said his Government’s has a grave concern regarding the unilateral insertion of some Caricom Member States including Trinidad and Tobago on the list of non-cooperative tax jurisdictions by a number of our international partners.

Dr Rowley called for an end to all embargoes on Cuba

“The label of ‘non-cooperative tax jurisdictions’ has the potential to inflict irreparable damage to the reputations and economies of small island developing states like ours. Trinidad and Tobago, therefore, call upon our international partners to adopt a more collaborative, just and fair approach in addressing this issue,” he said.

He also appealed to international banks to engage collaboratively with the affected Member States to restore mutually acceptable financial relationships regarding the decline of correspondent banking services.

“This is particularly problematic for Caricom Member States, as it threatens our financial stability, impedes our efforts to alleviate poverty and limits our achievements in respect of socio-economic growth and development.

“Further, the withdrawal of correspondent banking services undermines the region’s efforts to consolidate a global partnership that will achieve the Sustainable Development Goals,” he explained.

He also welcomed the observation by Secretary-General

Guterres at the CARICOM Heads of Government Meeting in July of this year, that eligibility for Official Development Assistance and other forms of concessional financing should include vulnerability criteria.

“Trinidad and Tobago, therefore, take this opportunity to reiterate its call for the international community and international financial and development institutions to consider the formulation of new multidimensional parameters in determining access to concessionary financing,” he said.

The theme of the UNGA is “Galvanizing multilateral efforts for poverty eradication, quality education, climate action and inclusion.”

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