PM urges Canada to relax travel requirements for T&T citizens
Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley has asked Canada to consider lifting its visa requirements for Trinidad and Tobago nationals and the rest of the region.
He made the appeal to Foreign Affairs Minister François-Philippe Champagne at the 31st Inter-sessional Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) that is taking place in Barbados this week.
Dr Rowley expressed that both sides will benefit from the removal of this barrier given Trinidad and Tobago’s deep and historical connections with Canada.
Meanwhile, Champagne addressed heads at the meeting and indicated that his country is taking steps to strengthen its relationship with CARICOM. To this end, Canada has proposed an annual meeting with the regional body.
Earlier in the meeting, Dr Rowley gave a commitment to help further the work of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) unit of the CARICOM Secretariat. He pledged that two officers from the Ministry of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs will be sent to the unit on secondment to bolster and expedite the regional integration initiative.
CARICOM Chairman and Barbados Prime Minister Mia Mottley delivered remarks at the opening session of the two-day meeting and addressed the community’s response to COVID-19.
She said: “When we left Castries in July last year, we had no clue that we would be facing a potential pandemic in the world with COVID-19. We didn’t have any idea that our ability to function as a single domestic space would be threatened by that development.”
She noted that it is the Implementation Agency for Crime and Security that is able to track the movement of people and alert border security officials regarding risks associated with individuals entering the region.
The Barbados Prime Minister said it was this regional institution that continues to provide front-line protection for member states.
Outgoing CARICOM Chairman and St Lucia's Prime Minister Allen Chastanet said the response to the disease is a great example of the region working together.
Chastanet stated: “A great example of our regionalism working is in our approach to the spread of the Coronavirus. As many of you are aware a week ago Saint Lucia was on high alert and thankfully the RSS (Regional Security System) stepped in to help get our samples to CARPHA for immediate testing and they quickly came back to us with news that we were Coronavirus free.”
“We are so thankful as a nation to the RSS and CARPHA for going above and beyond. This reminds us of the importance of being part of a union; being part of a group that in times of emergency have your back. This is what being part of CARICOM is about.," he added.
Part of the agenda for Wednesday's meeting includes the need for ongoing advocacy against the challenges of blacklisting, de-risking and the withdrawal of correspondent banking services.
The heads are also expected to discuss a proposed CARICOM African Summit and a number of Foreign and Community relations matters.