Above, from left: Saint Kitts and Nevis Foreign Minister Sam Condor and United Kingdom Foreign Secretary Wiliam Hague (CJ Photo)
By Alexander Britell
GRENADA — The United Kingdom and the Caribbean began talks today aimed at renewing and revitalizing their relationship, during the seventh UK-Caribbean Forum in Grenada.
High-level delegations from across the Caribbean and the United Kingdom discussed issues including security, trade and climate change.
“I think it’s already been extremely useful,” UK Foreign Secretary William Hague said in a press conference. “It’s certainly been very good from the United Kingdom’s point of view, to create for us the better understanding and the fullest possible understanding of the needs and concerns of our friends and partners in the Caribbean.”
The scope of the talks was met by the size of the delegation, which included members of the UK’s Home Office, Foreign Office, Department for International Development, security officials and members of the private sector.
Hague said it was the largest UK ministerial delegation to the Caribbean in “many many years.”
“For us this is the opening up of a new and more modern relationship with the caribbean,” Hague said. “I’s not about the past relationships, it is how we work together on modern challenges — of sound development, of tacking climate change — in which Grenada, for instance, has played a leading role in this region. It’s about making sure governments understand each others’ concerns.”
Both sides thanked Grenada for its role in hosting the event.
“The size of the delegation and the quality of the delegation, it indicates that the British government is really serious about this relationship,” said St Kitts and Nevis Foreign Minister Sam Condor, who co-chaired the forum with Hague. “[The meeting] is really to reinvigorate, to revitalize, to revive this relationship, a relationship that we hold special from both ends, from both sides of the Atlantic.”
Also covered in the talks was the British Air Passenger Duty, which has generated some controversy within the region.
“We are satisfied that the delegation led by the Foreign Secretary has been receptive to our concerns,” Condor said. “The APD is a major concern for us, and we understand that he British govenrment has to have their own fiscal policy, but we want to look at the implementation, to make sure it’s not discriminatory, and it does not affect us adversely.”
The two sides additionally discussed climate change and ways in which they could collaborate to develop green energy. The UK, Hague said, was developing its own wind sector on a huge scale, and said that a mutual relationship on green energy could be “enormously” beneficial to both sides.
“Renewable energy immediately factors into development,” Condor said. “Energy is a major inhibiting factor in terms of development — in terms of the cost of living, in terms of providing jobs, so we’re hoping that we’ll be able to collaborate with the British government on improving the development of renewable energy.”
The forum will continue Sunday.