Prime Minister, US Secretary of State talk crime, security

The content originally appeared on: Trinidad and Tobago Newsday

Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken during a meeting in Washington, DC. – Photo from US Secretary of State Antony Blinken’s X account

THE Prime Minister and US Secretary of State Antony Blinken have expressed their mutual commitment to addressing crime in the Caribbean.

Dr Rowley and Blinken made these statements at the start of a meeting in Washington, DC.

Rowley left Trinidad and Tobago for Washington on Sunday.

A statement from the Office of the Prime Minister on that date said Rowley would meet with US government officials and representatives on several issues such as energy, commerce and cyber security.

At the start of the meeting, Blinken praised Rowley for the warm welcome he received when he attended the Caricom Heads of Government meeting in Port of Spain last July.That meeting dealt with crime as a public health issue.

Blinken said the meetings TT and the US will engage in this week underscore the strength of diplomatic ties between the two nations.

“TT is a vital partner to the US and we are working together in many areas.”

Blinken said crime in the Caribbean, including TT, remains an issue both countries are committed to addressing.

“We are partnering as well to fight violent crime and firearms trafficking.”This is a priority for the work that we are doing (this week).”

Blinken said TT and the US continue to collaborate closely on energy security, climate change, prosperity and opportunity in the Caribbean.

“This is a vital partnership.”

Rowley agreed with Blinken. He also agreed that both countries are fully committed to dealing with crime in the Caribbean.

“The safety and security challenges are extremely important to us.”

Rowley also said the US has featured very regularly in conversations with TT on regional energy security as well.

A statement issued subsequently by the OPM said the meeting with Blinken focused on several key issues, including energy, education, crime prevention, training and technical assistance.

The discussions focused specifically on national security and firearms trafficking and the work being advanced through the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative, the US regional citizen security and development programme.

The talks also touched on the historical and emerging issues surrounding Venezuela as it relates to TT’s pathway towards achieving energy security for the region.

Last December, TT secured a 30-year licence to develop the Dragon field in Venezuela’s territorial waters.

The US$1 billion deal was signed between TT and Venezuela in August 2018. But it was left in limbo after the US imposed sanctions on Venezuela in 2019.

Last January, Rowley announced that the US had lifted the sanctions to allow TT to extract gas from Venezuela.

Rowley and Blinken also discussed collaboration concerning strengthening cyber and digital policy and the ongoing instability in Haiti.

Before meeting with Blinken, Rowley met with US trade representative Ambassador Katherine Tai, the chief trade adviser, negotiator, and spokesman on US trade policy.

Rowley said the US remains TT’s major trade partner.

He discussed with Tai “ideas on further strengthening the bilateral economic partnership and opportunities to expand trade.”

Energy Minister Stuart Young, Foreign and Caricom Affairs Minister Dr Amery Browne, Digital Transformation Minister Hassel Bacchus, Minister in the Office of the Attorney General and Legal Affairs Renuka Sagramsingh-Sooklal and Defence Force Chief of Staff Air Vice-Marshal Darryl Daniel are accompanying Rowley in Washington.

Finance Minister Colm Imbert will act as prime minister until Rowley returns.