December 2, 2022

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Secretary Antony J. Blinken and Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness Before Their Meeting

12 min read

Antony J. Blinken, Secretary of State

Washington, D.C.

Thomas Jefferson Room

ECRETARY BLINKEN:  Well, good morning, everyone.  It’s a great pleasure to welcome Prime Minister Holness to Washington, to the State Department.  Great to have you here.  We now 60 years of independence to celebrate, 60 years of our own diplomatic relationship, but especially the work that we’re doing together, today, that really is making a difference and making a difference in the lives of people in both our countries.

I really want to applaud, Mr. Prime Minister, your very strong economic leadership in Jamaica, and our partnership in the Caribbean, which I think is never been better, and that’s in large part due to your engagement and your leadership.  So, we’re very pleased to have you here to talk about many of the issues that bring us together in our own region, but also issues that are affecting people globally – from climate to COVID, to other things.  And we’re of course, very much forward to working together on the Summit of the Americas, which is coming up.

So thank you very much for being here.  I’m looking forward to a good conversation.  Welcome.

PRIME MINISTER HOLNESS:  Thank you, Mr. President, for your warm – Mr. – I keep making this (inaudible).  (Laughter.)

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  I won’t tell my boss.  (Laughter.)

Thank you, Mr. Secretary, for the warm welcome for me and my delegation.  We have had several meetings, which have gone very well, including a meeting with the Vice President.

Jamaica and the United States have had a very long and strong relationship, particularly on the people-to-people side of things.  From government-to-government perspective, Jamaica and the United States have shared values and needs.  We’re both strong democracies.  And in an era where democracy is not necessarily (inaudible) state of nations, it is very important that democracies work together to strengthen their partnerships and to explore ways in which we can help each other.

I am pleased to report that Jamaica has made significant progress in its microeconomic development, particularly with its fiscal stability and sustainability and debt reduction.  We were able to do this with significant help and facilitation by the United States, and we are here to express our gratitude for that help.

We are now at a point where we can pivot to other areas of our economic and social development, our human capital development.  Jamaica has been a net exporter of talent to the United States, and I think our longstanding people-to-people relationship, with migration back and forth, would have been mutually beneficial.  But Jamaica is in a state now where its growth potential, its growth horizon, could potentially be limited by its human resource development.  And this is an area in which we want to explore ways in which we can further partnership.

The present global and geopolitical instabilities have highlighted the vulnerabilities of small island developing states.  We take great note of yesterday’s announcement by President Biden regarding the release of strategic reserves.  We hope that that will have a positive effect on the reduction of oil prices, and hopefully it will be beneficial to small island countries and developing states, like Jamaica, who are facing a really very difficult time just coming out of the pandemic and then being hit with these other geopolitical issues over which we have no control or (inaudible).  We have to also discuss matters of climate change.  We met in COP, and we had very good discussions as to how small island, developing countries could be assisted and facilitated.

And then there is always the issue of our national security and your security interests in the region.  We are in a region which is considered near third world, and the ability of states within the region to control their domain, control their maritime borders and their land borders, is critical.  Obviously, crime and violence, (inaudible) – these are areas in which we can have great discussions and great partnerships.

And then there is the issue of how do we convert our democracies into prosperous economies.  That is the real challenge.  How do we get our democracies to be prosperous for our people? And And I think for smaller and developing states like Jamaica, a small shift in policy – economic policy, could result in gains that are significant both for our economies, but for your economies as well.  Jamaica considers itself to be a friendly near-shore destination for investments and production capacity.  And I think that it would be in the U.S.’s interest to look at countries like Jamaica, to position strategic production capacity which could be beneficial for the stability of production chains and supply of goods and services.

So Mr. President – Mr. Vice President – (laughter).  Mr. Secretary.  (Laughter.)

PARTICIPANT:  You’re almost there.  (Laughter.)  One more step.

PRIME MINISTER HOLNESS:  We look forward to the Summit of the Americas, and Jamaica will be attending in full force.  And I must say that we were very happy to be invited and participate in the Summit for Democracy.

Mr. Secretary, thank you.

SECRETARY BLINKEN:  Thank you very much.

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