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U.S.-Caribbean legislation clears US House hurdle

02252016_Mitchell_in_the_house_1.2_t670By K. QUINCY PARKER From Nassau Guardian

The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 – intended to prioritize the United States-Caribbean relationship – has unanimously passed the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, and while the bill’s bipartisan co-sponsors celebrated the achievement, Minister of Foreign Affairs Fred Mitchell took a more cautious stance.

Questioned on the legislation, Mitchell was terse.

“On the face of it, it seems harmless. However, I do not want something to pass which looks innocuous but then turns out to be intrusive and counter-productive.

“I will certainly be seeking the U.S. government’s view of the proposal,” he told Guardian Business.

The legislation requires the State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to identify agency efforts to prioritize U.S. policy toward the Caribbean; outline an approach to broaden outreach to Caribbean diasporic communities in the United States; outline an approach to partner with governments of the Caribbean region to improve citizen security and reduce drug trafficking; establish a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to improve energy security and increase access to diverse, reliable, affordable and sustainable power; outline an approach to improve diplomatic engagement with governments of the Caribbean region; and develop an approach to assisting Caribbean countries in the diversification of their economies.

In addition, the bill requires the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports: an evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country, and an evaluation of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean.

U.S. Congressman Eliot Engel, ranking member of the committee, introduced the legislation last week with U.S. Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen. Under the bill, the secretary of state and the administrator of USAID would be required to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy cused on outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and diasporic communities in the U.S.

Last week, Engel said, “It’s a big world with a lot of challenges -some that get more attention than others. So it’s important to stay focused on our neighbors in the Caribbean. These countries are profoundly important to the United States.”

He also spoke to the importance the shapers of the law will give to consultation with the many Caribbean­ American citizens in the United States, through “revitalized outreach to this community, seeking greater input on ideas for economic development and citizen security”.

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IMAGE: Fred Mitchell


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