March 27, 2017 | PRESS RELEASE
Washington, DC – The “United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act” (H.R.4939) was signed into law on December 16, 2016. On March 21 & 22, Caribbean Central American Action (CCAA) brought the passage and implementation of the law into focus with a series of events in Washington, DC.
On March 21st, CCAA members presented awards to the authors of the legislation, Representatives Eliot L. Engel (D-NY) and Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), for their long-standing commitment to the region. In her remarks, Congresswoman Ros-Lehtinen said: “Alongside my friend Eliot Engel, I was proud to play a role as the lead Republican cosponsor of the U.S.-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act which became law last year. This new law requires the State Department to develop a strategy to partner with our Caribbean neighbors on everything from counter-narcotics to energy security, and to broaden our outreach to the Caribbean diaspora community in the United States.”
Highlighting the role of the Caribbean Diaspora, the Congresswoman added: “As someone who represents South Florida and a large number of Caribbean-Americans, I know that part of what makes our community so unique is in no small part thanks to the influence of the Caribbean diaspora. Deepening our strategic relationship with the Caribbean represents an extraordinary opportunity to expand our economic ties, cooperate on security issues, and advance our values and interests.”
Congressman Engel underscored his commitment to advancing the dialogue: “Let’s build on the momentum of our legislation’s passage and use it as a starting point for enhanced engagement with the Caribbean in the years ahead. Here in Congress, I will continue to do all I can to push U.S.–Caribbean relations to the front of the U.S. foreign policy agenda. And I ask that you all continue to be strong partners in this effort. Keep up the energy and the pressure so that we build these relationships into everything we know they can become.”
CCAA brought its resources to the table to do just that during a day-long series of off-the-record meetings on March 22nd, when stakeholders from the U.S. Government, the Caribbean Diplomatic Corps, multilateral institutions, the Diaspora, and the private sector, debated issues influencing the U.S.-Caribbean dynamic and how H.R.4939 could shape the relationships going forward.
Throughout the day, participants not only drew attention to the geographic, economic, political, and cultural ties, shared by the U.S. and the Caribbean, but also to how the legislation harnesses attention on the engagement when there is pressure being exerted on regional economies, and at the same time, the geo-political landscape is shifting in Europe, the Americas, and beyond. CCAA’s Executive Director, Sally Yearwood, emphasized the importance of this dialogue as the Executive Branch works to develop the strategy for engagement: “H.R.4939 gives the Caribbean an opportunity to build and strengthen partnerships, and it is encouraging to see diplomats and industry leaders, legislators and academics, getting together to drive a conversation on common issues and interests. Our goal is to help sustain this dialogue.” Discussions at the meetings focused on the broad issues of business and policy considerations under H.R.4939, as well as on economic issues (trade, tourism, energy, and financial services), security issues (crime, trafficking, and border controls), and social investment priorities (education and health).
CCAA member companies, Seaboard Marine and Squire Patton Boggs (USA), sponsored the two day event.