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US passes legislation to strengthen relations with the Caribbean

From WiredJa Online News

WASHINGTON, DC, December 14, 2016 – Legislation to enhance United States’ engagement with the Caribbean is now heading to President Obama’s desk for signature,  after it passed both the House of Representatives and the Senate.

Ranking member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, Eliot Engel and former Chairman of the Committee Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, made the announcement today on Capitol Hill, pointing out that the Act calls for a new, long-term strategy to strengthen ties between the United States and its Caribbean neighbors.

The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (H.R. 4939) will strengthen relations with the Caribbean by requiring the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean.The legislation puts particular emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanding diplomacy and providing educational exchange opportunities for citizens of the Caribbean.

In reacting to the bill’s passage, Congressman Eliot Engel, one of the authors of the legislation, said “at a time when our friends in the Caribbean need us more than ever, this bill will prioritize our partnership with the sub-region for many years to come. It is long past time to have a multi-year strategy that will allow us to increase engagement with the Caribbean, especially when it comes to energy and security.”

Congressman Engel pointed out that “the countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important to the United States, and particularly to the many Caribbean-American citizens in our country.”

He said he was looking forward to working with the Caribbean-American diaspora to ensure that they could provide input to the State Department and USAID on U.S. relations with the Caribbean in the years ahead. “With constant crises around the globe that demand U.S. attention, we must not lose sight of our long-term interests close to home,” Engel said.

In her remarks, Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said, “I am honored to work alongside my friend and colleague Eliot Engel in order to send this important legislation aimed at prioritizing our bilateral relationships with allies in the Caribbean to the President’s desk.

“We must strengthen our relationship with Caribbean nations so that they view the U.S. as a reliable partner and push back against the negative influence of Maduro’s corrupt regime in the region. It is vital to work proactively and collaboratively with Caribbean nations to promote close cooperation in the areas of security, trade, illicit trafficking, and energy and I look forward to seeing this important legislation implemented in order to advance our own national security interests,” Ros-Lehtinen said .

In welcoming the passage of the bill, Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States HE Audrey Marks, commended congressman Eliot Engle and US Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen for piloting the bill.

“She pointed out that the legislation had a speedy passage through both  the House and Senate and commended the members of  both houses for the passing of this important piece of legislation.

She noted that the Caribbean owed both Representatives a debt of gratitude, as the Region is a valuable partner to the United States and we value our relationship deeply. “This bill will go a far way in further strengthening the relationship between the United States and the Caribbean Region,” Ambassador Marks said.

IMAGE: Ranking member of the United States House of Representative Committee on Foreign Affairs Congressman Eliot Engel greets Jamaica’s Ambassador to the United States, Her Excellency Audrey Marks on Capitol Hill in Washington DC. |Photo by Derrick Scott

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