Caribbean Leader Meet With President George Bush

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US Secretary of State, Prime Minister Huber Ingraham and US President George Bush along with regional leaders, met in the White House for regional talks.

WASHINGTON, DC – Prime Minister Hubert Ingraham, Barbados Prime Minister David Thompson and Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow took part in a “wonderful discussion” with United States President George Bush, Mr. Ingraham said Thursday.

The Caribbean leaders; all democratically elected within the past year, met with the U.S President at the White House Thursday afternoon.

President Bush, joined by the Caribbean leaders and U.S Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice addressed reporters at the White House following the meeting, and also expressed this positive sentiment. The President described the discussions as “good, friendly and important.”

In a statement prior to the meeting, the White House highlighted the United States’ longstanding friendship with The Bahamas, Barbados, and Belize, indicating that the U.S “shares deep social and familial ties as well as the values of democracy and respect for human rights” with the three countries.

Prime Minister Ingraham said: “We had a wonderful discussion. We discussed a number of issues of concern and relevance to ourselves, including our desire to have the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) extended.”

The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), of which The Bahamas is a beneficiary, is a broad programme to promote economic development through private sector initiative in Central American and Caribbean countries. A major goal of the CBI is to expand foreign and domestic investment in nontraditional sectors, thereby diversifying CBI country economies and expanding their exports.

The Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act of 1983 (CBERA) (amended in 1990) and the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act of 2000 (CBTPA), collectively known as CBI, provides customs duty-free entry to the United States on a permanent basis for a broad range of products from CBI beneficiary countries.

The initiative is set to expire on September 30, 2008.

“We talked about tourism and the impact the current increase in the price of oil is having on travel. We talked about security [and] democracy,” Mr. Ingraham added.

President Bush, who referred to the Caribbean as the “neighbourhood” of the United States, emphasised the importance of the region.

“We talked about trade and tourism. We talked about how to make sure our security needs are met without interrupting the ability for our people to travel as freely as possible and the ability for people to be able to make a good living as a result of tourism,” he said.

“We talked about the region. I assured the Leaders that the neighbourhood is important to the United States of America,” Mr. Bush noted. “It was important for these leaders to know that we believe that a good, strong, healthy, vibrant neighbourhood is in the interest of the United States, and so we had a good, friendly, important discussion.”

Congratulating the Prime Ministers on their recent and “fair” election victories, President Bush added: “There is no stronger advocate for democracy than my administration.”

Prior to the White House meeting, Prime Minister Ingraham and his colleague Leaders met with Inter-American Development Bank President Luis Alberto Moreno at the IDB in Washington.