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U.S. Department of State

Great Seal Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright and
Ralph Maraj, Foreign Minister of Trinidad and Tobago
Press Conference following Caribbean Ministerial Meeting and Signing of Memorandum of Understanding
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, April 6, 1998
As released by the Office of the Spokesman
U.S. Department of State

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LEONARD ROBERTSON, PRESS OFFICER, CARIBBEAN COMMUNITY: Good morning, and welcome to the press event culminating the first meeting of the Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Caribbean and the Secretary of State of the Dominican Republic, and the United States of America.

We will start the morning's proceedings with the signing of the memorandum of understanding between the Caribbean and the United States regarding a mechanism to allow rapid consultations on trade related issues.

The documents will be signed by the Secretary of State of the United States of America, Ms. Madeline Albright, and Secretary General of the Caribbean Community, Mr. Edwin Carrrington.

This MOU will establish a contact point for quick consult mechanism that will provide for government-to-government consultations on either bilateral or regional basis within 30 days on a trade matter of such concern to any government that it requests consultations on an expedited basis.

It will be led on the U.S. side by the Office of the United States Trade Representative but will include other U.S. government agencies. On the Caribbean side it will be led by the Secretary General of CARICOM and will include trade ministers of member countries as appropriate for each issue.

Thank you, ladies and gentlemen. (Applause)

I now invite Madame Secretary of State, Secretary General Carrington, and the Honorable Minister of Foreign Affairs, our host, Mr. Ralph Maraj, to come to the podium.

The press conference will begin with a statement by the Honorable Foreign Affairs Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, Mr. Maraj, another statement by the Secretary of State, and then we will invite questions and as is customary we will please ask you to state your name and the agency which you represent.

The Honorable Foreign Minister, Mr. Maraj.

FOREIGN MINISTER MARAJ: Thank you very much, Mr. Chairman. Madam Secretary, Secretary General, distinguished ladies and gentlemen.

I am pleased to report to you that we have just emerged from what I consider to be a very successful meeting.

The Caribbean side is very pleased with the fact that we can have this structured meeting and I think one of the important achievements of this morning is the fact that the United States of America and the Caribbean are engaged in a process of dialogue and consultation and that the whole implementation process that we decided upon in Bridgetown is really on the way.

This is the inaugural meeting of that implementation process and we are in fact very pleased with the outcome of the meeting. I think we have the foundation for the future.

As usual we looked at the two broad categories of issues, the economic issues and the justice and security issues and whilst we lamented the fact that we have not yet had CBI enhancement, we have had an assurance from Madam Secretary that in fact that matter is not dead and that the administration will do its part to revive the whole question of fast track authority and, of course within that category the whole question of CBI enhancement, CBI expansion will be dealt with.

We were pleased, ladies and gentlemen, this morning to note the generosity of the government of the United States with respect to the diversification of some of the economies of our region and in fact the U.S. has now committed $4.7 million over three years to assist in diversification of some of our smaller economies.

We have noted as well development with respect to emergency relief centers and the whole question of training has also been focused upon and we are pleased to announce that that is another development arising out of this meeting.

We discussed of course as well the banana problem because, as you know, the banana problem in the Caribbean is critical to the economies of the region and we have again been assured of the commitment of the United States of America to work with us, to find a solution to this problem.

We applauded, ladies and gentlemen, in general the achievements that we've had under the justice and security issues. And in fact we noted that it is in this area that a lot of success was had.

And we looked at the establishment of the maritime cooperation agreements, mutual legal assistance and extradition treaties between the United States and the Caribbean as a means of strengthening our fight against narcotics trafficking and international criminals. We also looked at the implementation of a second phase of regional legal reform training project at the University of the West Indies and the implementation of a regional anti-money laundering project by August 1998 and we looked as well at the definition of a regional justice protection program which is emerging.

All in all, ladies and gentlemen, we ended up being very satisfied that this inaugural meeting of ministers of foreign affairs and secretaries of state of the Caribbean with the Secretary of State of the United States was a very successful meeting and we were all happy to come.

Thank you very much.

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Thank you very much, Foreign Minister Maraj, it's a pleasure to have this meeting here and I thank you for all your hospitality. Other distinguished Foreign Ministers, Mr. Secretary General, distinguished guests and members of the press, I do think that we have had a very productive day.

I want to begin by thanking the Foreign Minister and Prime Minister Panday, for the wonderful welcome they have provided, and for the absolutely first-rate arrangements made for these discussions.

But even more important than the beautiful surroundings has been the true spirit of cooperation. Our countries are linked not only by proximity of geography, but also by proximity of values. Our nations are drawn together by a shared belief in freedom, in law, in tolerance and in working together to improve the lives of our people.

As Mack McLarty, the President's special envoy to the Americas, can attest, these beliefs are reflected in the Bridgetown Plan of Action which our leaders agreed upon last May. And they also reflect the spirit of the upcoming Santiago Summit. These beliefs were much in evidence during our meeting today.

During that session, we were able to look back on the progress made during the last eleven months--efforts to facilitate trade, and create economic opportunity through micro enterprise, scholarships and rural development, efforts to improve emergency response capacity and to protect the environment; and a host of initiatives to improve cooperation in the war against drugs and crime.

The major focus of our discussions, however, was on the future. Mack McLarty is just back from Santiago and has filled me in on the preparations for the second hemispheric summit later this month. There, we will launch the negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas by the year 2005.

We are establishing a "quick-consult" mechanism so that when concerns in trade, and in the trade area arise, they are dealt with rapidly instead of being allowed to fester. We look forward to discussions aimed at concluding "Open Skies" civil aviation agreements which would benefit our economies, our travelers and our interest in closer regional ties.

Underlying all our deliberations is a determination to see that no nation is left behind as the global economy moves ahead.

The United States is committed to assisting development in states whose economies depend a great deal on the export of bananas.

We are increasing our support for economic diversification, especially in the Windward Islands.

We are sending a business development mission to the Eastern Caribbean next month.

We welcome the Dominican Republic's offer to host next January the first Caribbean-U.S. Trade and Investment Forum. We hope to bring the public and private sectors together there to share perspectives and to explore opportunities for further integration and growth.

And the Clinton Administration remains strongly committed to approval by our Congress of legislation that would provide NAFTA parity for the Caribbean.

Just as we seek to move ahead economically, so we are moving ahead on all fronts in the struggle for security. Our goal is to construct a web of legal arrangements and law enforcement actions that will discourage international criminals from acting, while leaving no place to hide if they do.

In today's discussions, we focused, in particular, on money laundering, witness protection, and implementation of the recently concluded Inter-American Convention on Trafficking in Illegal Arms. We also stressed the importance of seizing the assets of drug dealers, so that criminals will pay more--and our taxpayers less--of the costs of law enforcement.

Before closing, I also want to highlight the growing value of CARICOM as a vehicle for purposeful and principled partnership within this region.

We note that it played a useful role recently in sending assistance to Montserrat; and we also support CARICOM and OAS efforts to help St. Kitts and Nevis find constitutional alternatives to secession.

In Guyana, we commend CARICOM's important role in helping the parties resolve their political impasse, and call on the parties to observe the letter and spirit of the Herdmanston Accord.

As President Clinton made clear in Bridgetown, the process in which we are engaged does not involve discussions between Caribbean countries and the United States; but rather meetings among Caribbean nations, including the United States. For the United States is also a Caribbean nation. And we know that no nation is so strong that it can get by without the help of friends, or so small that it cannot make a real difference in the affairs of the world.

The United States looks forward to strengthening and expanding its partnership with its Caribbean neighbors. Mack will continue this close contact with all of you. And I look forward to continuing our dialogue at the Santiago Summit, in New York at the General Assembly this fall, and, I hope, in a second post-Bridgetown Ministerial, I hope, in this region.

Thank you very much.

(Applause)

MR. ROBERTSON: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, Madame Secretary of State. We now invite questions from the media.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, if I may take you away from regional issues. The Iranians have complained that their wrestling team was treated discourteously when it arrived in Chicago recently when its members were fingerprinted and photographed. Is this procedure likely to encourage the increased person-to-person contact which you seek with Iran?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that this is an incident I have heard about that strikes me as not exactly welcoming and it has been part of some existing security regulations. But let me say that we very much welcome the kind of cultural exchange that is being currently represented by this wrestling team, and I will make it a point of looking into regulations that undercut our desire to move forward in this respect.

QUESTION: Madam Secretary, you said the United States is determined that no nation in the Caribbean be left behind. Now, how do you reconcile that with the position taken by the United States that Cuba should be left out of the process towards the establishment of a Free Trade Area of the Americas by the year 2000?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I have spent a great deal of time thinking about the problem of Cuba and what it means as far as our hemisphere is concerned.

I now carry with me a map that may not be very clear to all of you but I will hold it up anyway in hopes that somebody will see it. This map shows the difference in what our hemisphere, or the southern part of it, looked like in 1978, and what it looks like now. In 1978 most of it was in red, depicting dictatorships or military regimes, and a small part of the north was green, depicting elected civilian governments. Currently the map looks like this, where there's only one small red spot left.

I think that indicates that Cuba is not with the trend that we so happily applaud in the Western Hemisphere, and we look forward to the time that the whole hemisphere will be in green and we can feel that we are united in our determination to have democratic governments freely elected. This year, just before the Pope's visit, Fidel Castro recognized what the rest of the world has known for 2,000 years, and that is that Christmas is a holiday. We hope very much that election day will be the next holiday celebrated in Cuba.

QUESTION: You just mentioned about Cuba. The question is, if Fidel Castro invites you for a visit, aside from security considerations, what would your conditions be to accept this invitation?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: I think that what we're looking for is a democratic transition in Cuba, movement towards toward democracy, free elections, the ability for people to associate freely and to be able to exercise the same kind of human and political rights that are evidenced throughout this hemisphere.

QUESTION: There is a fear that the lack of fast track could hinder the progress of the FTAA. What is your comment on this, and is the U.S. also willing to support special consideration for smaller economies in the integration of the FTAA?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Let me say that obviously we were all very disappointed with the lack of passage of fast track legislation. The President made clear in his State of the Union message and I have in a number of speeches as have other Cabinet officials our desire to have fast track legislation and move it forward.

We however do believe that it is possible and we will act on that belief that it is possible to move forward with trade negotiations in a new round even without fast track authority. That was true in the Kennedy round and we believe that it is possible now.

We also want very much to have the CBI enhancement and generally, action for smaller economies so that we can all have a free trade area by the year 2005. That continues to be President Clinton's determination and we will all fight for that.

QUESTION: If we can turn to the Middle East for a second. It's been a week since Dennis Ross came back from his mission, and I'm wondering if we're any clearer on what the next steps will be?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: Well, Dennis Ross and I have spoken a great deal in the last week. It was evident from his report that he was able to take some modest steps, but that there is no breakthrough. I will, when I leave here I will fly immediately to Washington, and then drive as fast as possible to the White House for a meeting with the President because we have not had a chance to really report to the President on Ambassador Ross' last trip and it will be during that meeting that we consider what our next steps will be.

QUESTION: In your aims to help the Caribbean diversify, and focusing on the topic of technology transfer, and more immediately, is the United States prepared to contribute to a fund started by Britain, to help combat the millennium bug problem?

SECRETARY ALBRIGHT: The what? The bug? Millennium bug? Sure! If there's a problem with bugs. I will check on it.

Thank you. Okay, thank you all very much. Thanks!

[End of Document]

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