By NAN Staff Writer
News Americas, WASHINGTON, D.C., Tues. June 14, 2016: A bill to increase engagement with the governments of the Caribbean region and the Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States was passed in the U.S. House of Representatives on Monday, June 13, 2016 at 6:14 P.M after 40 minutes of debate.
Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, had introduced the United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, H.R. 4939, on April 14, 2016 with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL).
Engel on Monday praised the passage of the bill which would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy focused on enhancing engagement with the countries of the Caribbean and enhancing outreach to Diaspora communities in the United States.
The legislation also puts particular emphasis on energy security, countering violence, expanded diplomacy, and other priority areas.
“We spend a great deal of time focusing on challenges and opportunities in faraway places. But it’s important that we never lose sight of our interests closer to home. Indeed, we should be working to strengthen our ties with countries in the Caribbean,” Rep. Engel said on the House floor. “That’s the aim of this bill, which would prioritize U.S.-Caribbean relations for years to come.”
The bill directs the Department of State to submit to Congress a multi-year strategy for U.S. engagement with the Caribbean region that:
Identifies State Department and U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) efforts to prioritize U.S. policy towards the Caribbean region;
Broadens State Department and USAID outreach to the Caribbean Diaspora community in the United States to promote their involvement in Caribbean economic development and citizen security;
Outlines an approach to partner with Caribbean governments to improve citizen security, reduce illicit drug trafficking, strengthen the rule of law, and improve the effectiveness of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI);
Encourages efforts of the region to implement regional and national strategies that improve Caribbean energy security;
Improves diplomatic engagement with Caribbean governments; and
Assists Caribbean countries in diversifying their economies, reducing free trade and investment barriers, and supporting the training and employment of persons in marginalized communities.
The Government Accountability Office would be required to submit reports to Congress regarding: (1) the CBSI; and (2) diplomatic outreach from the U.S. embassy in Barbados to Antigua and Barbuda, Dominica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent, and the Grenadines.
The bill’s passage comes on the 10th anniversary of National Caribbean-American Heritage Month.