Remarks by Vice President Harris and Prime Minister Mia Mottley of Barbados Before Bilateral Meeting
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
4:31 P.M. EDT
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Madam Prime Minister, welcome. It is my great honor to welcome you. The relationship between the United States and Barbados is a very important one.
Also, the relationship between the United States and CARICOM is an important one. And your role of leadership there has been, I think, very significant in making clear the importance of the region and the importance of the relationship.
As you know — and I think about and talk about all the time — I truly believe that our world is interconnected and interdependent more so than ever before, as highlighted by most the recent events, including the pandemic, but also as highlighted by one of the greatest crises that we face as a globe, which is the climate crisis.
Our conversation today will, I believe, cover a number of these issues, including not only what we must do in the short term, but the potential that our relationship has in the long term to address these issues in a way that has positive impact for the people of our two countries.
Since our diplomatic relations began 55 years ago, the relationship between the United States and Barbados has continued to grow. And, of course, we take very seriously, as the United States, our membership as neighbors in the Western Hemisphere.
And it is in that spirit that we do the work that we do together, including the work we will do to continue to address the COVID-19 pandemic.
We’ve already donated, I think, over a million doses of vaccine to the region with a promise of 3 million more at least.
The work that we are doing together is to strengthen the economy of the region. You and I briefly spoke about that before we walked in here, and that’ll be the subject of our discussion this afternoon.
And then, of course, what we can do to assist in our collective determination to make sure that the people of our countries are able to live in a way that they’re able to prosper and be safe. To that end, we have a longstanding relationship with Barbados, as it relates to the safety of the region and the fighting of drug trafficking and transnational criminal organizations.
Madam Prime Minister, I also applaud your commitment — and you’ve been an outspoken leader on the issue of human rights and LGBTQ rights; your outspoken leadership, in terms of combating climate change, and also what you have done to highlight that not all countries are equal on this issue, including an understanding of who are the greatest emitters and who are actually receiving the impact of it — being some of the lowest emitters. It is a fair point that you raise over and over again, and one that we will discuss this afternoon.
And then finally, I will say again that the relationship between the United States and CARICOM is a very important one, which we intend, as an administration — and I was just with President Biden, who, of course, expresses his welcome to you —
PRIME MINISTER MOTTLEY: Thank you.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: — it is an important relationship that we intend to strengthen.
So, welcome and thank you.
PRIME MINISTER MOTTLEY: Thank you. Thank you very much, Vice President Harris. I really want to say how happy I am, with my delegation, to be here to meet with you and your staff today. We, too, believe that we have a strong relationship between our two countries and between our region. And it’s best captured and often referred to as “a neighborhood.”
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Yes.
PRIME MINISTER MOTTLEY: And we have a good neighborhood, and we are ever conscious that good neighbors must be neighborly. And to that extent, we feel therefore that there is much that we can work together on, looking to see where both countries can help each other.
In many instances, we have traditionally provided persons who have come here to work, who have made their living — you know it only too well. And that has been the promise of the America for the rest of the — the American region for decades.
By the same token, we face common threats together. And the world perhaps has never been more precariously placed in decades than it is now.
And to the extent that we can cooperate and work together with respect to fighting the pandemic, for fighting the climate crisis, for fighting security threats, and for promoting prosperity as a basis for the engagement of all of us, then I believe that we can go forward.
I’d like to thank — on behalf of not just Barbados, but the Caribbean community — the donations made by the government and people of the United States of America with respect to the vaccines. They were timely. We do — and hopeful we will receive the others soon.
This battle is real for us in the Caribbean, as I speak to you. And at the same time, we’re conscious that there has to be vaccine equity across the world. Because if not, we run the risk — as has happened with Delta and the other mutations — of other mutations coming to bear.
Similarly, we are also conscious that as we go to Glasgow, that there is a distinct risk, regrettably, that the world might not make the 1.5 degrees that we need to survive in the region. If that happens, then the conversation has to change seriously to be about adaptation, because we have to adapt to that new reality, which can literally be upon us anywhere from 12 to 20 years.
And to that extent, therefore, you’re dealing with a region that has been constantly evolving and constantly responding to one-size-fits-all prescriptions — from the establishment of the WTO that precluded us from being able to benefit from special and differential treatment; to, today, where, on this climate crisis battle, we are on the front line, but, as you quite correctly said, we’re not responsible for causing it.
What it does lament is that the absence of an understanding of what is needed for adaptation is going to hurt us because time is of the essence now if the world passes 1.5 degrees.
With respect to security — well, I don’t need to say any more; we’re in the same neighborhood. And anybody who lives in the same neighborhood, whether it is in a village or a city or a state, we have to work together to keep each other safe.
And safety is fundamentally what it is about now. A hundred years ago, the world faced similar circumstances and the world rose to the occasion after 20, 25 years. And it led to the establishment of the United Nations and the Bretton Woods Institutions.
We are at a similar moment in time now. And while we may not need to create new institutions, we may need to repurpose the existing ones.
So, I want to thank you. I look forward to the further, deeper conversations and to really building a relationship.
And at a very personal level, we’ve said to you and I’ve said to you that Shirley Chisholm is a Barbadian. That she was the first African American congresswoman is something of which all Barbadians are proud. That she became the first African American woman to run for a major political party and a presidential nomination is also something of which we are proud.
But perhaps more than all of that, we’re proud not just because of her courage, but because of her message. And her message was one that required equality of opportunity and protection of the vulnerable. It is the philosophy that binds us still today.
And at the very personal level, I know that both you and I have celebrated firsts. But in both cases, we’ve said, “We’ve not come to be the first, but we’ve come to ensure that we are not the last.”
Thank you very much.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you, thank you, thank you.
END 4:39 P.M. EDT