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Wednesday 20 November 2019
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Prime Minister in Washington for energy talks

PRIME Minister Kamla Persad-Bissessar is now in Washington DC, United States, with Energy Minister, Kevin Ramnarine, for the Caribbean Energy Security Summit (CESS) being hosted by United States vice-president, Joe Biden, in partnership with the Atlantic Council (a think-tank) and the Council of the Americas (a business-advocacy). The conference starts today.

The Office of the Prime Minister (OPM) yesterday confirmed to Newsday that the PM had arrived at Washington after flying out from Piarco Airport last Saturday.

The high-level meeting also will involve World Bank president, Jim Kim; International Monetary Fund (IMF) head, Christine Lagarde; and top business and energy officials, said the Atlantic Council website.

Agenda priorities are better energy governance, more access to finance, and donor coordination.

The website of the Atlantic Council quoted its own officials stating the event’s importance. One official said, “The energy summit is timely and urgent, particularly in the face of large-scale regional concerns with possible Venezuelan cutbacks to its Petrocaribe program”.

Another Council official added, “The Caribbean is facing a looming deadline to update and convert its infrastructure and to secure the necessary financing to do so. This summit seizes the moment to advance both these urgent priorities”.

The forum includes an energy security roundtable with heads of government, followed by public remarks by vice-president Biden and a series of high-level panel discussions.

The summit is a key component of the Caribbean Energy Security Initiative, which the Atlantic Council’s Latin America Centre analysed in a publication, “Uncertain Energy: The Caribbean’s Gamble with Venezuela”.

After Washington, Persad-Bissessar on Wednesday and Thursday will go to Costa Rica (where she will be joined by Minister of Foreign Affairs, Winston Dookeran) for the Third Summit of the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC, a leftist regional network, inspired by former Venezuela president, the late Hugo Chavez). Both talks are important in light of current questions over the sustainability of the Petrocaribe deal by which Venezuela supplies Caribbean nations with petroleum on favourable terms.

Recently at a two-day summit in Beijing, China, CELAC leaders including Costa Rica president, Luis Guillermo Solis; Venezuela president, Nicolas Maduro; and Ecuador president, Rafael Correa, met China president, Xi Jinping, who pledged billions of dollars of investment to the region.

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