Via Teleconference

6:34 P.M. EDT

MODERATOR:  Hi, everyone.  Thank you so much for joining us today.  This is [redacted] from the Vice President’s communications team. 

On this call today, we are going to be previewing the Vice President’s visit to the Bahamas tomorrow.  This call is on background, attributed to “senior administration officials.”  The contents will be embargoed until tomorrow, June 8th, at 5:00 a.m. Eastern. 

We’ve sent everyone who’s RSVP’d a factsheet.  That factsheet is under the same embargo of tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. Eastern Time. 

Today we are joined by [senior administration official].  We’re also joined by [senior administration official]. 

[Senior administration official] will deliver opening remarks, and then we will take your questions.

And with that, I’ll turn it over to [senior administration official].

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, [moderator].  And thanks to everyone for being here this evening.  We’re pleased to do this call to talk about the Vice President’s travel to the Bahamas tomorrow.  It is a historic visit because she is the highest-ranking U.S. official to visit the Bahamas since its independence in 1973. 

And, in fact, the last high-level White House visitor was President John F. Kennedy in 1962, which, of course, was before the Bahamas had actually gained its independence. 

This visit comes a month before the 50th anniversary of the Bahamas independence and the 50th anniversary of CARICOM, so it is very well timed. 

In terms of the schedule for tomorrow, the Vice President will arrive in the Bahamas midday and will be greeted upon arrival by members of various Bahamas civil society organizations.  She will then have a bilateral meeting with Prime Minister Davis of the Bahamas. 

She will then co-host the U.S.-Caribbean Leaders Meeting, which includes leaders from CARICOM nations, the Dominican Republic, and the CARICOM Secretary-General.

This engagement will have a few components.  She will greet each leader individually upon arrival.  She will then have a private engagement with just the leaders.  The leaders will take a family photo.  And then the leaders will have a long multilateral meeting where the Vice President will deliver remarks at the top to press.  And finally, the Vice President will have a meet-and-greet with staff and families of U.S. Embassy Nassau.

We view the U.S.-Caribbean relationship as significantly strengthened under our administration, thanks in large part to the leadership of the Vice President.  This will be her fourth multilateral meeting with Caribbean leaders, which I think is a really acute demonstration of how important she sees this partnership and how important she sees leader-level engagement with Caribbean counterparts. 

The Vice President has repeatedly made clear in her prior engagements that, as neighbors, we share common bonds and interests with the Caribbean, and she views strengthening our partnership as key to our shared prosperity and security.

So in terms of how this meeting came about: From the beginning of our administration, the Vice President has been very clear that we needed to elevate our engagement with the Caribbean.  And, really, she has delivered on that commitment. 

In April of 2022, the Vice President convened the CARICOM leaders, plus the Dominican Republic, virtually.  They had a long discussion about economic growth, COVID, security, and especially on efforts to address the climate crisis.  And at that meeting, the Vice President committed to convene that group, CARICOM plus DR, annually.  So this meeting in the Bahamas tomorrow is a fulfillment of that commitment for the year 2023.

Following the April ‘22 meeting, the Vice President galvanized the U.S. interagency to put together an initiative on the climate crisis, the result of which was the U.S.-Caribbean Partnership to Address the Climate Crisis 2030, or PACC 2030, which they can conceived in that first meeting. 

After that, the Vice President convened Caribbean leaders in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas and officially launched PACC 2030 in June of last year.  At that meeting, the Vice President also launched three committees of U.S. and Caribbean representatives to make short-term progress on three key priorities: energy security, food security, and access to financing. 

She then convened the Caribbean and U.S. co-chairs of these committees at the Blair House in Washington in September 2022, and they put in place action plans on each of those areas. 

And now, tomorrow, the Vice President is convening Caribbean leaders again for her fourth multilateral meeting in a little over a year to make further progress. 

So in terms of the progress that we expect to see — take stock of and report on tomorrow in the multilateral meeting — first, let me just say a few words on PACC 2030. 

So a primary focus of the U.S.-Caribbean Leaders Meeting will be on our shared efforts to address the climate crisis through PACC 2030.  Under the Vice President’s leadership, our administration has made significant progress, which is outlined in the factsheet that you all will have received already.  The Vice President will discuss the steps we’ve taken thus far on PACC 2030. 

For example, throughout the region, we are now facilitating clean energy infrastructure development, climate adaptation projects, and technical assistance projects.  We have provided assistance to deploy solar microgrids, to develop geothermal power projects, to train a clean energy workforce, and to support battery storage and energy grids, among other projects.

We built Caribbean capacity with regard to disaster preparedness, and we have worked to bring investors to the Caribbean to identify and develop new clean energy projects. 

At this meeting, the Vice President will announce significant new investments through PACC 2030.  And let me just highlight two quickly here.  The first is a $20 million investment in the Caribbean Climate Investment Program, which will mobilize the private sector to deploy new technologies to help with climate adaptation.  And the second is a $15 million investment to support disaster risk reduction and emergency response efforts.

And building off the Vice President’s meeting tomorrow, on Friday, the Atlantic Council and RMI — formerly known as the Rocky Mountain Institute — will host in Nassau a PACC 2030 summit.  Senior members of the Vice President’s office and our administration will participate, and the intention is to facilitate connections between Caribbean governments, our government, the private sector, NGOs, and philanthropies to identify, build, and operate new clean energy projects in the region.

Next, just a minute on MDB reform.  A big priority for Caribbean leaders has been increasing access to development financing and specifically doing so to support climate projects.  Now, the Vice President has heard this loud and clear throughout her engagements with Caribbean leaders, and has worked in Washington and with other global leaders on this issue.  And it’s a key pillar of PACC 2030. 

As many of you will have seen, earlier this week, the Vice President met with the new president of the World Bank, Ajay Banga, and laid out the U.S. policy position for reform of multilateral development banks.  Our position was informed by her conversations with Caribbean leaders, and we’re aiming to achieve these reforms by the time of the G20 this fall, which will have a major impact on Caribbean nations.

More specifically, the Vice President and our administration are advocating for: One, significant new concessional financing delivered through a new window or other innovative mechanism to incentivize action on global challenges such as the climate crisis.  Two, focus on the climate crisis and the mission of the World Bank.  And three, renewed focus on mobilizing the private sector in support of these aims.

Now, tomorrow, the Vice President has invited President Banga to participate in part of the multilateral meeting on development financing to help advance these reforms and discuss how they can best meet the needs of the Caribbean.

Now, just on a few other topics that we anticipate the Vice President will raise and discuss with the leaders tomorrow.

Another issue that Vice President Harris has heard from Caribbean leaders on is firearms trafficking, and we expect this will be a topic of discussion.

Disrupting illicit firearms trafficking in the Caribbean is a shared priority for the United States and our Caribbean partners and an important aspect of our cooperation to address rising levels of crime and violence in the region.

President Biden signed into law last year the bipartisan Safer Communities Act, which increases penalties for straw purchases and firearms trafficking.  And the Vice President will discuss implementation of this law.

In addition, we’re announcing the creation of a new position at the Department of Justice, the Coordinator for Caribbean Firearms Prosecutions, which will increase information sharing as traffickers are prosecuted.

And we’re also investing new funds in various initiatives that will help Caribbean investigator- — investigations and prosecutions.

Now, on Haiti, we expect the leaders to have a conversation on the humanitarian and security crisis.  The United States continues to increase our support for the Haitian National Police, but the worsening security situation requires an international response, which is why the United States strongly supports the deployment of a multinational force to Haiti, which the Vice President will make clear to the Caribbean leaders.

She will also announce more than $50 million in new humanitarian aid, and she will announce our support for the extension of the HOPE-HELP trade preferences for Haiti, which are due for renewal in 2025.

At this critical time, it’s important that producers and investors in Haiti — those they do business with and the workers upon which they rely — have certainty about the uninterrupted continuation of the HOPE-HELP program.

Lastly, another major priority for the Caribbean had been diplomatic presence.  And to that end, the Vice President will announce that our administration has begun the process to establish two new embassies and additional diplomatic support presence in the Eastern Caribbean.

So with that, I will open it up and look forward to your questions.

MODERATOR:  Great, thank you so much, [senior administration official].  Thank you all again for joining.  Just a reminder that this call is attributed to “senior administration officials” and is embargoed until tomorrow at 5:00 a.m. Eastern.

With that, we’re ready to take your questions.  Please use the “raise hand” function and we will call on you.

First question we’ll go to Jacqueline Charles.  Jacqueline, your line should be unmuted.

Q    Can you hear me?


Q    Okay.  Hi.  Thanks for doing this.  I have two questions.  The first has to do with the concessional financing. You know, Caribbean countries have always talked about the fact that they’ve been considered middle income on paper, but reality, that is not the case.  So I’m just wondering what the administration is promoting.  Is it only concessional and new financing as it relates to climate change initiatives?  Or is there a change in the formula that would allow Caribbean countries to tap concessional financing in a new way that would be beneficial?

And the second question, particularly on Haiti: You know, the Vice President is going to renew the position in terms of a multinational force, but you’re going into an environment where, just a few months ago, Caribbean leaders basically said that they were not going to support an international force and that they were going to work with the police. 

So I’m just wondering, in terms of her conversations with Caribbean leaders, following that meeting with Canada, is there going to be more of a push to get them to support a multinational force?  What can we expect in terms of that discussion with her and Caribbean leaders on this issue?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Jacqueline, for both of those questions.  I guess I’ll start off with the question on concessional financing.  It may be helpful — I’d also refer you to the readout of the Vice President’s meeting with World Bank President Banga, which is a pretty good exposition of our position on this.

But I would say that our goal is to work with World Bank shareholders and with President Banga in order to take actions that will deliver, as I said, this new concessional financing.  We’re still working through a lot of the details, whether that will look like a new window or a different kind of innovative mechanism.

But the idea is to incentivize action on a range of global challenges to include climate change, but certainly not exclusively climate change, across all borrower countries.

And the intent of all borrower countries is — to gesture at the other part of your question — which is, of course, we seek to increase access to concessional financing to countries in a range of income brackets and, in that sense, expand the access to financing for countries in the Caribbean and elsewhere who have the need for these types of concessional resources and where it will have the highest impact.

With respect to Haiti, I will just say — I mean, not wanting to get ahead of the conversation tomorrow — as I said before, the United States is continuing to increase our support for the Haitian National Police.  We have continued to make clear that we believe that the security and the humanitarian situation in Haiti is worsening, and the situation on the ground will not improve without armed security assistance from international partners. 

So it remains our view that any decision about military force would be done in consultation with the U.N. and with the Haitian government.  Those discussions are still ongoing and certainly will continue tomorrow when Prime Minister Henry will be in the room with Vice President Harris and the other Caribbean leaders.

And I would just say, in the meantime, as we continue to work through the details, again, we continue to support the HNP, and the United States is also supporting the people of Haiti by providing humanitarian assistance, including the more than $50 million of new assistance the Vice President will be announcing tomorrow.

MODERATOR:  Our next question will go to Akayla Gardner.  Your line should be unmuted.

Q    Hey, guys.  I just wanted to ask about the funding for PACC 2030.  Is this the first funding that’s going towards that initiative?  And if not, how much funding was already allocated?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Hey, Akayla.  Thanks for the question.  We don’t have an accounting of the precise amount that has been dedicated to PACC 2030 thus far, although I would just draw your attention to the factsheet and the very robust suite of activities that have already happened under the auspices of PACC 2030.

I would note, of course, that the goals of PACC 2030 are multifaceted.  And so pillar one, for example, is about access to development, finance.  And to the question that Jacqueline just raised, of course, that’s not something that you would put a monetary value on but is of great significance to the Caribbean countries.

Similarly, the fourth pillar of PACC 2030 is about elevating U.S.-Caribbean cooperation and engagement.  Again, not something that you can put a dollar value on but something that’s of significant diplomatic and geopolitical import to both the Caribbean and to us.  And as I mentioned at the top, this being the Vice President’s fourth multilateral meeting with Caribbean leaders, I think it just speaks to the progress we’re making.

But in terms of more concrete actions — again, sort of referring to some of the details at the bottom of the factsheet — I would say the U.S. is providing support for the Barbados Blue-Green Investment Corporation.  We have also facilitated clean energy projects across a wide range of Caribbean countries, ranging from training and clean energy workforce in Antigua and Barbuda; to new geothermal development in Dominica and Saint Kitts and Nevis; to Dominican Republic energy storage support, specifically focused on battery storage; to St. Lucia solar-plus microgrid support.

And so the totality of it is quite impressive.  As you heard, there will be new announcements on the order of tens of millions of dollars tomorrow.  But we don’t have a sort of grand total in terms of all the different effort across the U.S. interagency that has gone under this program thus far.

MODERATOR:  Thank you.  Our next question will go to Brendan O’Boyle.  Brendan, your line should be unmuted. 

Brendan?  Your line should be unmuted.

Q    Can you hear me?

MODERATOR:  Yes, we can.  Go ahead.

Q    Do you have any more details on the expanded diplomatic presence in the Eastern Caribbean and where these two new embassies will be and what they will be working on?  Or — yeah.

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Yeah.  So, the Vice President is going to announce that the U.S. Department of State has begun the process to establish two new embassies and an additional diplomatic support presence in the Eastern Caribbean.

Five countries in the Eastern Caribbean do not currently have a physical U.S. diplomatic presence.  And so, we will engage with Congress and the governments of the countries in the Eastern Caribbean on the topic of expanding our physical diplomatic presence, but we don’t have specific locations to announce today.

Q    Okay.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you.  If anyone else has questions, please use the “raise hand” function.  We’ll give it a couple seconds to see if any queue in.

And our final question will go to Pearl Matibe.  Pearl, your line should be unmuted.

Q    Hello.  You know, issues that have been in one region often affect another region.  So, I’m with Premium Times Nigeria.  And while Africa may not be your top on the agenda, you just mentioned the trafficking and arms — firearms trafficking, which are usually connected with transnational criminal organization and networks who have been taking advantage of that part of the world and coming across into South Africa, going to Asia and other parts.  Do you think that aspects of that type of — those types of linkages might be threaded into discussions with these leaders?

SENIOR ADMINISTRATION OFFICIAL:  Thanks, Pearl.  I would say the focus of the conversation tomorrow will really be primarily on the Caribbean and U.S.-Caribbean issues.  But, of course, to the extent that that affects other regions and has global implications, that could be a subject of conversation as well.

But, again, you know, primarily, we anticipate the Vice President will be focusing with Caribbean leaders on the immediate and urgent needs of their own region.

MODERATOR:  Great.  Thank you, everyone, for joining.  As a reminder, the contents of this call are embargoed until tomorrow at 5:00 a.m., as is the factsheet.

Talk to you all soon.

END                  6:54 P.M. EDT


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