US seeks closer ties with the Caribbean

President Obama laughs with Rep. Eliot Engle, D-NY., as he enters to address a joint session of Congress on Capitol Hill in Washington, Sept. 8, 2011.
Associated Press / Kevin Lamarque, POOL

There is no avoidant between the United States (US) and the Caribbean, and history has shown that the relationship has been a long and cordial one in most circumstances. However, the question that has always been raised by some Caribbean nationals more often than not what is the United States doing to help its Caribbean neighbors, especially on issues that are bilateral.

With this knowledge on hand and the need to have a greater inclusion of the Caribbean in the US Foreign Affairs policies, United States Congressman, Representative Eliot Engle, (D-NY) a ranking member on Foreign Affairs along with his colleague, Rep Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, former chair of the committee (R-FL) tabled a piece of legislation in the United States Congress to propel and prioritize issues relating to the Caribbean. The bill was tabled as: The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act (H.R.4939).

The bill first passed through Congress in June 2016, went to the United States Senate on Dec. 10, some slight changes were made to this bill and sent back to Congress and the legislation was passed in Congress on Dec. 13, 2016. President Barack Obama’s signature will then put this piece of legislation into law.

Congressional advisor on Caribbean Affairs representing Congressman Eliot Engel office lauded the bill as a meaningful one for the Caribbean. The bill, the advisor pointed out, will call for long-term agreements between the United States and the Caribbean. It will enhance and strengthen the existing ties. It will develop further engagement between United States and Caribbean on pertinent bilateral agreements. Congressman Engel also wants to uphold United States aid already in place, as the need does exist especially for some nations. Also highlighted is the importance for these Caribbean nations to collaborate with the United States State Department more than ever before. In a news release, Engel noted that countries of the Caribbean are profoundly important “… we must not lose sight of our long term interest close to home.”

The Congressional advisor also acknowledged the valuable importance of the Caribbean Community to the United States “and the big picture is that the Caribbean needs the United States, especially as the new administration takes office in January,” the advisor added.

The legislation will address areas such as how to collaborate more on energy, security, expanding diplomacy and providing educational exchange opportunities for Caribbean citizens.

Representative Engel is also asking that the Caribbean Diaspora leaders have a significant input in these engagements. One Caribbean leader, Bronx resident and President of the Jamaica Progressive League, Sadie Campbell said, she welcomes the legislation, “…what will it take to wake us up, we need more participation from the Diaspora, we have been too silent, if Donald Trump does not wake us up I do not know what will. We need full support from the Diaspora to send our message.”

President of the International Consortium of Caribbean Professionals, Dr. Gerald White-Davis, hailed the piece of legislation as encouraging, “any extension to help sustain the relationship is good.’”

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