Saturday, June 8, 2013

PM Kamla thanks Foreign Affairs staff for professionalism, dedication

PM Kamla Persad-Bissessar: "Today Trinidad and Tobago stands as equals among the nations of the world … and we have become an attractive diplomatic hub for diplomacy in the region and in Latin America."
Prime Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar on Thursday thanked staff of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for their work, and in particular their dedication and professionalism during the visits of U.S. Vice President Joe Biden and Chinese President Xi Jinping.

She also thanked Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran and his predecessor Dr Suruj Rambachan for their focused leadership that has contributed to advancing Trinidad and Tobago's international image and heighten stature on the international stage.

She did it in the foyer of the Office of the PM following the weekly cabinet meeting. "We all know that no captain wins without a good team," she said. "And I have to admit that no one could ask for a better team.

"I congratulate all of you – Permanent Secretary Margaret Parillon, all our other dedicated and hardworking diplomats both at home and abroad, your support staff and advisers… altogther a professional, dedicated and competent TEAM T&T … making us proud every step of the way."

JYOTI has published an edited version of her speech below:

This is indeed an exciting time. When Minister Dookeran signed the United Nations Arms Trade Treaty on Monday it was the icing on the cake for our international image and our commanding presence on the global scene.

I say the icing because it followed on the heels of the visit here last week by two global leaders – Vice President Joe Biden of the United States and President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.

Vice President Biden’s demonstrated that the United States government remains a friend and ally and that Washington is committed to becoming more deeply invested in a partnership with all the nations of the Caribbean.

Mr Biden highlighted his awareness of the difficulties that the Caribbean community faces in the areas of trade, energy, security, education and immigration and promised to address these issues.

With respect to trade he signed a framework agreement between the United States and CARICOM member states that gives us all a “vehicle” to overcome special, specific and practical barriers to trade and investment.

The implementation of the Agreement will be executed under the mechanism of the CARICOM-US Trade and Investment Council, which will be led by a nominee of the CARICOM Chair and the Office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR).

In addition, the Agreement establishes the framework for the discussion of issues to address the digital divide through the promotion of innovation and the dissemination of technology for increasing competitiveness, job creation, economic development and trade, as well as for discussing US trade and investment-related legislation which have extra-territorial impact.

With respect to energy we agreed through the signing of a MOU to promote and facilitate cooperation on developing energy efficiency and clean, sustainable, and energy renewable sources. The most significant outcome of this MOU is the that we will establish a Renewable Energy Research Centre at one of our universities in Trinidad and Tobago.

The United States also reaffirmed its support for the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative launched in 2009 to assist Caribbean countries in the fight against drug trafficking. The Vice President announced that the US will increase the initial investment of over US $200 million dollars.

We were able to make progress in other areas such as a Status of Forces Agreement and the commitment for more information and intelligence sharing on the very important issue of criminal deportees from to the U.S. to Trinidad and Tobago and the region.

All of things did not just come together by itself. It happened because you had a clear focus on the issues and used your resources to prepare our delegation for the very important bilateral and multilateral discussions. Again, I say thank you.

But your work was not done with one visit. You demonstrated that you are also greatly skilled at diplomatic multitasking with your equally professional preparatory work for the visit of President Xi Jinping of the People’s Republic of China.

We were able, with the help of our Minister of Trade Industry and Investment to identify six business clusters for the diversification of the local economy - the maritime industry, the energy industry, food sustainability, creative industries, tourism and financial services.

Our discussions with President Xi and his delegation sought to find ways to cooperate with Chinese firms with regard to the transfer of technical expertise in our efforts to develop the maritime industry in Trinidad and Tobago.

We also discussed co-operation in the development of manufacturing sectors such as biotechnology, information technology, high-tech manufacturing, pharmaceuticals, food production and agro-processing, printing and packaging, and ship building, repair and servicing.

The Chinese government is ready to support our projects in the areas of energy, minerals, agriculture, telecommunications and new energy. China is providing practical co-operation in the sum of $US250m to T&T.

President Xi also proviided us with a grant of $50 million.

The president also agreed to consider a request for financial assiatnce of $1 billion to build a hospital in Arima in addition to China’s generous assistance in financing the construction of the Couva children’s hospital and other critical national infrastructure.

President Xi also indicated that over the next 3 years 100 Chinese healthcare professionals would be sent to the Caribbean, including Trinidad and Tobago, to facilitate educational transfers and training.

There was also specific mention of cataract surgeries for patients.

We also discussed the possibility of tapping into China’s growing outbound tourism market, which reached 57.4 million in 2010 making China the third largest source of outbound tourists in 2010.

The President noted that China’s outbound tourism market is almost 80 million each year and that the whole world is eyeing the Chinese tourism market. In that context he invited Trinidad and Tobago to send its travel institutions to China to help promote Trinidad and Tobago as a tourist destination.

That historic visit saw the signing of important MOUs and President Xi China’s interest in T&T’s oil and gas resources. The president advised that relevant Agencies and departments on both sides should “stay in close communication.

President Xi spoke at length about the uniqueness of both Trinidad and Tobago and Chinese cultures, noting that we should highlight the upcoming 40th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the two countries with a series of cultural exchanges.

And as you know I suggested that T&T and China co-hosting an annual Caribbean Music Festival in Beijing. The President reacted positively to the Music Festival idea.

We also asked for China’s support for the Arms Trade Treaty and President Xi stated that he would maintain communication with Trinidad and Tobago on the issue.

And we will – with your proven excellence – soon be opening our first embassy in the people’s Republic of China, following which I would lead a team to visit China at the invitation of of President Xi.

None of this would have been possible without You … and that is why I am here today to express my personal thanks … and the gatitude and appreciation of my government and by extension the citizens of opur country.

The success of those visits and the signing of the Arms Trade Treaty could not have been achieved without your prepartion and hard work.

This landmark Treaty establishes common international standards for the transfer or trade in conventional arms, including small arms and light weapons and their ammunition. It is, like Minister Dookeran noted on Monday “a landmark achievement for Trinidad and Tobago and the world” since it comes at a time when our country has embarked on a policy of engagement in its diplomatic affairs.

We are grateful for the work you did to allow us to present a united Caricom position at the United Nations on the issue of regulating arms, which is so important to us as we confront the scourge of crime.

We are heartened that on the first day that the AAT was opened for signature 60 states signed on. This means that once they ratify the treaty it takes effect. It fact the requirement is just for 50 so we are well on the way to seeing this happen. I promise that we will ensure quick ratification.

Mininsiter Dookeran indicated on Monday that Trinidad and Tobago is interested in formally making a bid to house the Secretariat of the Arms Trade Treaty. We are hoping that will happen as well … and add to our already strong presence in the UN system.

I spoke about our international stature and recognition on the world stage. I must tell you it is no co-incidence because we have among us persons who can stand side by side with the best on this planet.

I speak about people like our very own Sandra Honoré who has been appointed by United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon as his Special Representative and Head of the United Nations Stabilization Mission in Haiti (MINUSTAH).

Sandra is expected to take up her functions on 15 July, succeeding Mariano Fernández Amunátegui of Chile, who completed his assignment on 31 January 2013.

We congratulate Sandra on her appointment and wish to note her sterling contribution and hard work as a career diplomat who has served with distinction since 1979.

Sandra is no stranger to multilateral settings. She served as Chief of Staff in the Office of the Assistant Secretary-General of the Organization of American States (OAS) from 2000 to 2005. And she was assigned as Special Assistant to the Chief of the OAS Electoral Observation Mission to Haiti from 1995 to 1996. And as you know she has served the Trinidad and Tobago Government in many capacities.

She was Ambassador to Costa Rica until August 2012, and held a number of positions in the Foreign Service, including Chief of Protocol in the Foreign Ministry in 2007 and Director of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Caribbean Affairs Division in 2005. She has undertaken assignments in the United States and Brazil and has also served in the Office of the Prime Minister.

We have people like Sandra … Ambassador Ambassador Rodney Charles and Ambassador Eden Thompson in New York and here at home Ambassador Gerald Thompson. Along with them there are so many others who work tirelessly to put all the pieces together to ensure that we present ourselves with strength and professionalism on world fora.

Today Trinidad and Tobago stands as equals among the nations of the world … and we have become an attractive diplomatic hub for diplomacy in the region and in Latin America.

As Mr Dookeran said in Parliament recently “we build a foreign image on hard and concrete relationships, not on political embraces”.

Our reputation as a leader on the global has come about through a dtermination to bring to the international fora serious issues such as the ones I raised under the name of Trinidad and Tobago on Women Disarmament, and Non-proliferation and Arms Control. It was a new initiative to draw civic society in the fight of non-proliferation and arms control.

And after substantial debate, and very delicate negotiations on the part of our officials in New York that that Motion eventually was approved by the General Assembly of the United Nations.

And on the issue of the Arms Trade Treaty … it took the hard work and negotiations of our officials in New York who have advanced the development of the public image of Trinidad and Tobago…

So my friends, we stand tall and we stand proud … our tiny nation-state among the global giants like Canada, the United States, The United Kingdom and the People’s Republic of China.

And it is to your credit …

You know, in our busy lives we sometimes omit the most important things … things like saying THANK YOU. Sometimes we are so preoccupied with the destination, we forget to appreciate the journey and those who stood with us along the way.

And that is why I am here today … to make sure that I tell you – each one of you – your government appreciates the work you have done and continue to do to advance our development as a model to the world.

Thanks for your invaluable contribution.

Sometimes, when the light goes out it takes a spark from another person to rekindle it. I thank each one of you for fanning that spark to create the flame that lights the way to a better future for all of us at home and abroad.

Thank you for your selfless dedication to our country.

Thank you for your hard work and your patriotism.

God bless you… God bless Trinidad and Tobago.

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Jai & Sero

Jai & Sero

Our family at home in Toronto 2008

Our family at home in Toronto 2008
Amit, Heather, Fuzz, Aj, Jiv, Shiva, Rampa, Sero, Jai