Remarks by Vice President Harris and Prime Minister Holness of Jamaica After Bilateral Meeting
Vice President’s Ceremonial Office
Eisenhower Executive Office Building
5:13 P.M. EDT
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Good afternoon, everyone. Mr. Prime Minister, I want to warmly welcome you again. It has been since — not since 1995 that a Prime Minister of Jamaica has visited the White House.
And so, President Joe Biden and I are very honored and — and very excited about your presence here today to reaffirm the strength of the relationship between the United States and Jamaica, and the Caribbean as a whole, but also, on this, the 60th anniversary not only of Jamaica’s independence but of the diplomatic relationship between Jamaica and the United States.
As I told the Prime Minister privately and I will say it again publicly, this is a very important relationship to the United States. We take very seriously our membership in the Western Hemisphere, and we are acutely aware of the interconnection and interdependence between the United States and Jamaica.
As a point of personal privilege, I grew up going to Jamaica. My family — half of my family is from St. Ann Parish in Jamaica. And I know I’ve shared that history with millions of Americans who have their roots through the generations in Jamaica.
In addition to, of course, then, those people-to-people ties between the United States and Jamaica, as I said, in context of being neighbors in the Western Hemisphere, we have a longstanding strategic relationship and a diplomatic relationship and a deep historic partnership.
And it is in furtherance of that that I’m proud and pleased to announce today three specific initiatives that the Prime Minister and I discussed that are in furtherance of the strength and the importance of that relationship.
We talked extensively about the Prime Minister’s approach and the need of Jamaica to continue to invest in its prosperity, in its economic health, and strength.
To that end, the United States — and I am announcing today — will be investing $20 million to assist in the strengthening and the expansion of Jamaica’s commerce in a way that we fully intend will have an impact in strengthening the economy of Jamaica and drive economic growth.
We also recognize — just as it has been in the United States — for Jamaica, one of the issues that has been presented as an issue that is economic in the way of its impact has been the pandemic.
So, to that end, we are announcing today also that we will assist Jamaica in COVID recovery by assisting in terms of the recovery efforts in Jamaica that have been essential to, I believe, what is necessary to strengthen not only the issue of public health, but also the economy.
And this is on top of more than — what we have done throughout the year since the start of the pandemic: $12 million in COVID assistance and more than 600,000 vaccinations — or vaccines that have been donated.
Lastly, but most importantly, a great part of our conversation, Mr. Prime Minister, that we appreciate has been about the priority we share for security in the region, as well as the issue of crime prevention.
So we discussed, of course, the priority that your government places on both those issues. And we agree that one area of important focus is on youth and on, as you said, the human capital of Jamaica.
To that end, we have committed and we’re announcing now to provide $10 million to target at-risk youth in Jamaica through a number of initiatives that we believe will have exponential impact not only on the issue of crime prevention, but what we intend as well, which is to strengthen, as you have described, the natural human capital that exists in Jamaica among young people.
And finally, our conversation spanned not only those issues, but issues that are about a global significance. And to that end, I thank the Prime Minister for the leadership that he has offered in the context of votes that have been taken in the United Nations and in terms of Jamaica’s strong stand in joining the United Nations and the United States in condemning Russia’s aggression in Ukraine.
We also discussed quite extensively the impact of the climate crisis on island nations and, in particular, on Jamaica. We discussed — and from my perspective, I recognize and we recognize that the world’s emissions have an outsized effect in the Caribbean, including on Jamaica. And I thanked the Prime Minister for his leadership in that regard. And we are eager to partner with the Prime Minister on what we can do to invest and prioritize climate resilience, but also an investment in renewable energies, understanding that this is about energy sources, and it is also about human capital and development and supporting the economy there.
So, in conclusion, I will say that the United States and Jamaica continue to be close friends with many, many issues in common. And this partnership is an important one and an enduring one for the United States. And we look forward to strengthening and continuing to strengthen the relationship.
Mr. Prime Minister, again, welcome. And thank you.
PRIME MINISTER HOLNESS: Thank you, Madam Vice President. Good afternoon, everyone. Ladies and gentlemen, it is a great pleasure to be hosted here at the White House. My team and I are grateful for the very warm reception we have received.
Madam Vice President, from the outset, let me say thank you for the announcements that you have made for support for Jamaica in the areas of commerce, help on COVID-19 recovery, and — for us, very importantly — the human capital development; and also for the commitment for further strategic dialogue as to how Jamaica and the region as a whole can be supported, particularly in transitioning our democracies into prosperous economies. That has been the essence of our conversation.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Indeed.
PRIME MINISTER HOLNESS: Madam Vice President, let me say that you have been a source of inspiration and great pride for many Caribbean people — in particular, our young women in the region. And we are, indeed, seeing an increase in the political participation of young women. And this diversity in the political space will augur well for the — for the region.
And I want to congratulate you —
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER HOLNESS: — on your leadership and your accomplishments.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you.
PRIME MINISTER HOLNESS: This visit takes place in the context of Jamaica celebrating 60 years of independence and 60 years of diplomatic relations with the United States. The United States was one of the first countries to recognize newly independent Jamaica, and we have had a very strong relationship since.
The United States and Jamaica enjoys strong people-to-people economic and development partnerships, and we’re very proud of our continued strong relationship.
Today, our discussions reaffirm this strong partnership. And we discussed ways in which this partnership can be strengthened and expanded.
Madam Vice President, the Jamaican government and people have sacrificed and worked hard to successfully entrench macroeconomic stability and fiscal sustainability — and, in particular, in managing our debt.
It is a journey on which the United States has been a very good partner through several of your agencies and, indeed, various multinational — multilateral institutions.
Jamaica today is a model of a small, open economy which has transitioned its public financial management into a stable and financially prudent one.
To secure these gains, we must now turn our attention to addressing the vulnerabilities that have been exposed within the context of a pandemic and other global developments, particularly in relation to energy security.
In this regard, growth, infrastructure, human development, national security, and, as noted, energy security are areas of priority.
We believe these areas also coincide with the United States’ interest in ensuring that the region is secure, peaceful, stable, and prosperous.
We have presented an overall plan to secure Jamaica’s prosperity and growth, and I’ve provided an outline on how our focused partnership with the U.S. can deliver on the promise of the great future that Jamaica envisions, particularly as we herald in our 60th year of independence.
In this regard, Jamaica will redouble our efforts in tackling illegal trafficking of weapons and persons, lottery scam, and other transnational crimes.
To address this in a decisive way, we are seeking to foster increased partnerships and collaboration on information and intelligence sharing, extradition, and other law enforcement efforts.
On the economic development front, we reiterated that we would welcome refocused attention on Jamaica in areas of security, energy capacity building, infrastructure, and nearshore digital technology hubs.
Madam Vice President, I thank you for your time today. And again, we welcome the announcements you have made in support of Jamaica.
Our strong and deep relationship with the United States is built on our shared democratic values and principles. It is an enduring relationship.
We look forward to working with you to leverage the strength of our partnerships to enhance the security, peace, wellbeing, and prosperity of the region.
VICE PRESIDENT HARRIS: Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister. Thank you.
END 5:25 P.M. EDT