UK pledges greater support for the Caribbean

Rt. Hon William Hague, UK Foreign Secretary

(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) This British Government will not turn its back on the Caribbean. This assurance was given by the United Kingdom Foreign Secretary, the Rt. Hon William Hague as he addressed the opening ceremony of the Seventh Biennial UK-Caribbean Forum in Grenada on Friday night.

In a brief speech, Foreign Secretary Hague told an audience of Prime Ministers, Chief Ministers, Foreign Ministers, High Commissioners and other senior officials that his Government had no plans to close any more embassies in the Caribbean but rather to open more as a sign of its commitment to strengthen relations with the Caribbean.

He noted that the people of the Caribbean had played a pivotal role in shaping the British Society for hundreds of years:

“From Mary Seacole’s contribution to nursing to Lewis Hamilton’s sporting achievements, Britons of Caribbean origin have contributed to every walk of like in our country.”

Against this background, Hague stressed that the UK valued the bonds between both regions and as such would invest further in that relationship.

“We want to build a new partnership between Britain and the Caribbean that creates opportunities on all sides – in development, climate change, the economy, security and foreign policy, he stated noting that the details of their support would be discussed during the session on Saturday morning.

The UK Delegation has been deemed one of the strongest and largest ever to attend the Forum. It includes the CEO of the UK Trade and Investment (UKTI) and the Chair of the Serious Organized Crime Agency (SOCA) together with other senior officials.

The Hon Sam Condor, Chair of COFCOR

St Kitts and Nevis Foreign Minister Sam Condor had linked this to the importance that the UK attached its relationship with the Caribbean. The UK Foreign Secretary underscored this, noting that Britain was very conscious of the value and significance of the relationships within the Caribbean and the many opportunities they brought.

The CARICOM Secretary-General Irwin LaRocque had also weighed in noting that the UK and the Caribbean had been friends and partners for a long time and were intimately familiar with each other’s’ challenges. This, he stated, “must count for something as we go to this new level in our relations, even in the context of a radically changed world.”

The three-day political debate will be held under the theme, Sustainable Growth toward Prosperity. Co-Chaired by St Kitts and Nevis Deputy Prime Minister, Hon. Sam Condor and the UK Foreign Secretary, this ministerial forum will focus on three broad issues of security, environment and economic resilience and the Plan of Action to be issued at the end of the meeting will set out both the outcomes and strategies to chart the way forward in rejuvenating the Caribbean-UK relations.

For the first time in its 14 year history, the Forum has included security as a distinct component and for the second time a distinct business, trade and investment component. During the Meeting therefore, the Caribbean Private sector will have opportunity to explore trade and investment opportunities with the United Kingdom even while addressing any challenges they may be experiencing in doing business with the UK.

The Forum will come to an end with a cricket match on the afternoon of Sunday 22 – an event in which the Grenada Foreign Minister Karl Hood quipped that the Caribbean would once again prove its dominance in that Sport. This event is being used as a platform on which to continue to promote healthy lifestyles in the fight against chronic non-communicable diseases.

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