Viewpoint: Prime Minister Keith Rowley
The consolidation of our economic stability and the capacity to remain effectively integrated into the global financial and trade architecture remains a priority for my government as we continue the search for measures to strengthen our fiscal resilience through diversification. Our national development ambitions should be buttressed by an enabling international economic environment through foreign trade, development cooperation, business activity and finance.
Financial services play an important role as a contributor to economic growth, along with international trade and investment. It is in this context that we express concern regarding the unilateral insertion of some CARICOM member states – including Trinidad and Tobago – on the list of “non-cooperative tax jurisdictions” by a number of our international partners. The label has the potential to inflict irreparable damage to the reputation and economy of developing island states like ours. Therefore, T&T calls upon our international partners to adopt a more collaborative and fair approach in addressing this issue. T&T also remains deeply concerned about the progressive decline in correspondent banking services by international financial institutions. This is particularly problematic for CARICOM member states, as it threatens our financial stability, impedes our efforts to alleviate poverty, and limits our achievements in respect of socio-economic growth and development. Furthermore, the withdrawal of correspondent banking services undermines the region’s efforts to consolidate global partnerships that will achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals. T&T joins with other CARICOM members in calling for international banks to engage collaboratively with affected states to restore mutually acceptable financial relationships.
In addition, climate change presents a very real threat that jeopardises our pursuit of sustainable development. My government is working to employ a multi-pronged approach towards adaptation and mitigation of the negative impacts of climate change. We have witnessed extreme flooding, droughts, coral bleaching, rising sea levels, heat waves and devastating hurricanes in many parts of the world. The marine environment and its resources remain critically important to the livelihood of our people, our culture and social identity, as well as our sustainable development ambitions. Therefore, T&T remains hopeful of the adoption – in the not so distant future – of an international and legally binding instrument under the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea for the conservation and sustainable use of marine biodiversity in areas beyond national jurisdiction. We maintain that this agreement would establish a platform for both sustainable development and the protection of the common heritage of mankind for this and future generations.
The foreign policy of T&T is guided by the tenets of respect for the sovereignty of all states, non-intervention in the internal affairs of other countries, adherence to international law and to the principles of the UN Charter. We remain fervent in our conviction that despite existing in a world where these well-established principles of multilateralism are under threat, our right to be heard ought not to be diminished or dismissed.
Our development would be difficult to attain without the successful management of irregular migration. T&T has not been unaffected by the influx of migrants from Venezuela. To manage this situation, my government implemented a new migrant registration system for both documented and undocumented persons who enter the country. The aim of the framework is to safeguard the human rights and needs of Venezuelan nationals within our borders, while upholding national security. Those who were registered were granted approval to work for one year in the first instance. It should be noted that this registration process gave those persons the opportunity to be self-sufficient through gaining employment during their stay in T&T.
The above is adapted from a speech given at the UN General Assembly on September 28, 2019.
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