By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker
KINGSTON, Jamaica (JIS) — Jamaica’s minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator A.J. Nicholson, and his Trinidad and Tobago counterpart, Winston Dookeran, have vowed to find mutually beneficial solutions to the current immigration and trade impasse affecting both countries.
Dookeran and his four-member delegation were on a two-day visit to Jamaica, at Nicholson’s invitation, to participate in discussions on the matters of free movement and free trade within the context of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
The meetings, which commenced on December 2 at the offices of the Foreign Ministry in New Kingston, also stemmed from a recent incident in which 13 Jamaicans were refused entry into the twin island republic.
In a statement to the press before the meeting, Nicholson said Dookeran arrived in Jamaica at a time of “considerable discontent and unease with our regional integration movement”.
He stated that the treatment meted out to Jamaicans at the Piarco International Airport and the sharp increase in the number of Jamaicans being returned from Trinidad and Tobago, have generated considerable public outrage.
He noted that this has undoubtedly affected confidence in the region’s integration movement; diminished goodwill on the part of many Jamaicans at home and in the Diaspora towards the twin island republic; as well as threaten to change patterns of consumption in Jamaica.
Nicholson said he hoped that the two countries can arrive at a mutually beneficial solution to the current problems.
“We hope to lay a foundation, over the next two days that will redound to our mutual benefit. This is of the utmost importance, as a regional integration movement which does and is perceived as protecting and advancing the interests of all sides, is vital to the progress of our regional enterprise,” he stated.
In his response, Dookeran said he believes the current trade and immigration impasse between the two countries can be solved amicably without the development of a “trade war”.
“It is of no benefit to Trinidad and Tobago or to Jamaica to allow a trade war to develop – both our countries will suffer. [We will] suffer in terms of investment, employment and in terms of building our own productive capability,” he remarked.
Dookeran and his delegation are in Jamaica to engage in open and constructive dialogue and to find solutions to the problems affecting the two nations.
He said he was also pleased with the outcome of a meeting held earlier in the day with members of the private sector community, including the Jamaica Exporters’ Association; the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association; the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce.
“It was indeed a meeting of great insights, for I heard from them detailed and practical ways that this problem can be addressed. I entertain those thoughts with a great sense of humility for these are the people on the ground – they know what is happening,” he stated.