At the invitation of the Prime Minister of Canada, the Right Honourable Stephen Harper, the Honourable Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, is on an official visit to Canada from April 23-27. Canada and Trinidad and Tobago, hemispheric and Commonwealth partners, share common values, multicultural societies, similar systems of government and a commitment to democracy, freedom, the rule of law, and human rights. These ties are strengthened by the contributions of almost 65,000 Canadian citizens and permanent residents with roots in Trinidad and Tobago, and 6,000 Canadians resident in Trinidad and Tobago.
Both leaders affirmed the importance of bilateral trade and investment, the centrality of free markets to mutual prosperity, and a keen desire to strengthen collaboration in the financial, oil and gas, and energy sectors. Canadian investment in Trinidad and Tobago has grown substantially, now exceeding $1.3 billion (CAD). Annual two-way merchandise trade grew by 45 per cent between 2005 and 2012, and is now approaching $600 million.
As Trinidad and Tobago takes up the rotating Chair of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) in July 2013, leaders also discussed the status of trade talks between Canada and CARICOM. They also discussed their common vision for a more integrated Caribbean region. Under Trinidad and Tobago’s Chairmanship of CARICOM, leaders expressed their wish to see regional integration and CARICOM reform advanced.
Demonstrating their commitment to share important lessons learned, Prime Ministers Harper and Persad-Bissessar announced that Canada and Trinidad and Tobago will co-host a CARICOM Public-Private Partnerships Seminar and business-to-business meetings in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago later this year. The seminar will bring together representatives from government, the private sector, international financial institutions and multilateral development banks from Canada, Trinidad and Tobago, the broader CARICOM and international community to share best practices in this field and how they can be applied further in their jurisdictions.
Recognizing the importance of education for each country, leaders were pleased to witness the signature of an agreement between Brock University and the University of Trinidad and Tobago to expand cooperation between students and professors. Some 300 students from Trinidad and Tobago study in Canada each year.
Canada and Trinidad and Tobago share an interest in improving security throughout the Americas. To this end, leaders welcomed the signature of the Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Ministry of National Security of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Canadian Commercial Corporation Concerning the Development and Implementation of Projects in the Field of Defence, Security, and Related Infrastructure. The MoU will facilitate closer ties between the two countries, including through the provision by Canadian companies of technology and services to enhance the capacity of defence and security institutions in Trinidad and Tobago. To this end, both leaders expressed satisfaction with the launch of negotiations between the Air Guard of Trinidad and Tobago with Provincial Aerospace Limited of Canada with respect to two Long-Range Multi-Mission Aircraft.
The Prime Ministers also noted that Canada’s Anti-Crime Capacity Building Program is supporting Trinidad and Tobago in modernizing criminal investigations. Further, Prime Ministers Harper and Persad-Bissessar are pleased to collaborate to improve the Caribbean region’s preparedness and ability to respond effectively to natural disasters by way of Trinidad and Tobago’s participation in the Caribbean Disaster Management Harmonised Implementation Program, which is led by the Caribbean Disaster and Emergency Management Agency and supported by Canada.
Trinidad and Tobago has been part of Canada’s Military Training and Cooperation Program (MTCP) since 1970. In support of their shared desire to expand defence relations, the Prime Ministers welcomed the signature of a memorandum of understanding between the two nations to help Trinidad and Tobago take on a greater role to provide regional military capacity building training. Leaders were also pleased to announce the appointment of the first Canadian Defence Attaché accredited to Trinidad and Tobago.
Prime Ministers Harper and Persad-Bissessar also affirmed their commitment to working together in regional and multilateral fora in pursuit of organizational reform, and respect for shared values. They agreed to work together to defend Commonwealth values, including human rights, democracy and the rule of law. Leaders also committed to strive for a more prosperous, secure and democratic hemisphere, and to identify opportunities to work together more closely in the Organization of American States (OAS) and other hemispheric institutions. In 2012, Canada and Trinidad and Tobago celebrated 50 years of bilateral diplomatic relations. At that time, commemorations included the state visit of Canada’s Governor General to Trinidad and Tobago. Today, with the first official visit by a Prime Minister of Trinidad in Tobago to Canada in nearly half a century, the Prime Ministers laid the groundwork for another fifty years of growing ties.