ISLAND IN THE SUN

Colombia 2015 | DIPLOMACY | GUEST SPEAKER

TBY talks to, Winston Dookeran, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Trinidad and Tobago, on his country's diplomatic efforts, the importance of regional trade agreements, and air connectivity in Latin America.

Winston Dookeran
BIOGRAPHY
Winston Dookeran is currently a Member of Parliament, the Minister of Foreign Affairs, and has acted as Prime Minister of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago on several occasions. As an educator, public, servant and politician, Winston Dookeran has made and continues to make a significant contribution to the development of his country aimed at improving the well-being of its people. He has made a mark on the international stage through his distinguished academic career and many publications on economic development of the Caribbean. His life continues to demonstrate the dictum that learning is action.

How do you assess Trinidad and Tobago's role in global democracy and what steps are being taken to move forward in the international scene?

Trinidad and Tobago is at a pivotal point, both globally and hemispherically. Our visitors like the Vice President of the United States of America, the President of the People's Republic of China, and Japan's Prime Minister are evidence of this pivotal point. In terms of global diplomacy, we have always intended to operate by certain fundamental principles, anchored in human rights, peace, security, and democracy. We have attempted to play a mediation role in global affairs wherever we are present and in that sense, we have been able to gain the respect of the global community as a country that takes its position on the basis of fundamental principles which are enunciated in international relations. We are also proactive in global issues such as the Arms Trade Treaty. Not only did Trinidad and Tobago participate with other countries like the UK and Australia to make sure that the Treaty was actualized at the UN, we also offered ourselves as a site to host the Secretariat. That decision will be made later this year. We have also been able to secure support from several major groupings including the Group of Latin American and Caribbean States (GRULAC). On the subject of climate change, we have also played a very important role. We co-chaired the climate change negotiation with Germany up to December 2014 and we are preparing for the upcoming meeting in Paris, which will focus on the agreement. In global diplomacy, we have been very proactive on critical issues, as well as being contemplative on issues of conflict.

As the leading CARICOM exporter to and importer from Colombia, what are the main areas of growth between both nations?

During the last few years, we have taken a very deliberate position to open our borders to Latin America. We joined the Latin American Development Bank as a full member and we are an observer member to the Pacific Alliance, in which Colombia is a key player. Of course, we promoted the Community of Latin American and Caribbean States (CELAC) as an important regional institution and influenced them to agree to include the Caribbean in the management and governance. We have taken a deliberate position to shift our foreign relations to engage with Latin America. In our view Colombia is an important and critical country. Not only is Colombia our neighbor, but there have been strong cultural links between Trinidad and Tobago and Colombia over the years. We acknowledge Colombia's recent successes in terms of its economy and its thrust for peace. The Colombian Foreign Minister is expected to visit Trinidad and Tobago shortly. We have a number of bilateral issues that we want to consolidate. We have also worked very closely with the Association of Caribbean States; we have deepened our relationship with Colombia over the last few years. There are many other areas where we have been able to work closely, including Cuba. We have always supported the removal of the embargo. Trinidad and Tobago and other Caribbean countries took that position historically in 1972 and have consistently supported that cause. We were engaged in recent times with diplomacy to ensure that Cuba attends the Summit of the Americas which will take place later this year and we are pleased to see that the US has agreed to open diplomatic relations with them. We look forward to the eventual removal of the embargo.