Minster of Tourism Hon Asot A. Michael along with members of his senior technical team met with a delegation from the US Embassy which included Eric Jacobstein and Eddie Acevedo from the House Foreign Affairs committee in Washington DC, along with Laura Griesmer Counselor Deputy Chief of Mission and Political/Economic Officer Julie Limoges based at the US Embassy in Barbados.
The United States – Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016 a bill sponsored by Democratic Congressman Eliot Engel was a formal US policy designed to increase engagement with the Governments of the Caribbean region, This also including engaging the private sector, and civil society in both the United States and the Caribbean.
The purpose of the law was to develop a framework to engage Governments in the Caribbean on areas such as energy, trade and commerce.
Minister Michael used the opportunity to confirm that initial duty free access and preferential terms available to Antigua and Barbuda were still available under the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) trade agreements. The Minister also raised the issue of US immigration “Pre Clearance” that exists in some Caribbean territories such as the Turks and Caicos and the Bahamas. This is of high importance to the destination. The availability of this facility would be a game changer in the country’s tourism industry in enhancing and simplifying the visitor departure experience as they return back to the United States.
The US delegation confirmed that applications for the service are currently closed and will be revisited in the near future. In the interim Tourism officials would be provided with all details pertaining to the formal application process that needs to be made along with the country criteria that is required for this to be considered by the US Government. Montreal and Dublin were recommended as two cities that offer the latest facilities for US “Pre Clearance” The US delegation suggested these latest facilities be visited as they are regarded as examples of what is required and what is offered for airports offering both private and commercial flights.
Ambassador Daven Joseph with responsibility for key trade issues was also at the meeting and used the opportunity to raise several key issues concerning trade. Foremost was the availability and willingness of Antigua and Barbuda to host a major US/Caribbean investment conference. This would be targeted at would be investors to showcase the attractiveness of the country and promote
opportunity areas such as renewable energy, which is a key strategic direction for the country’s energy sector.
Other areas discussed include the planned upgrade of the Port of St John which would in the near future enhance its attractiveness as a major transshipping point for major US based cargo shipping lines that serve the region.
“The vast majority of the country’s imports are from the USA and so I welcome this opportunity to discuss areas of cooperation in trade and investment and the movement of USA visitors that will also impact both our countries in a positive way. This engagement is critical to exploring new areas of bilateral cooperation where our two Governments can do more by working together” said Minister Asot Michael.