Kerry stumps for free trade in the Caribbean

State secretary John Kerry Caribbean free trade
Trinidad and Tobago's President Keith Rowley with US State Secretary John Kerry

Entrepreneurship and transparency essential to growth, says Kerry

Promoting free and open trade among the Caribbean and Latin America is the major priority for The Obama Administration, said United States Secretary of State, John Kerry. Speaking at the recent  Council of the Americas’ 46th Annual Washington Conference of the Americas/US-Caribbean-Central American Energy Summit Reception, Kerry says the U.S is particularly committed to supporting entrepreneurs and innovators, and promoting accountability and transparency among government institutions.

“The fact is that, if we want the economies of Latin America and of the Caribbean to grow and thrive tomorrow, then we’re going to have to make the right choices now, today, tomorrow,” said Kerry. An “open, integrated platform for global success,” said Kerry, is you create and support jobs, and that is how we encourage innovation, and that’s how we drive growth.”

To promote entrepreneurship in the region, the Obama administration has also established the Small Business Network of the Americas, “to connect thousands of small business service providers throughout the hemisphere,” said Kerry.

“Economic experts agree that new businesses are a major source of new jobs, but our policies ought to reflect that by smoothing the way for people who have a good idea to be able to translate that idea into a company that will strengthen communities and build prosperity one step at a time,” Kerry said.

The State Secretary also called for an end to financial corruption in the region, which “robs the future of a country,” said Kerry.

“It steals not just money from citizens; it steals their trust in government. It steals their sense of – their national wealth. There are some countries in some parts of the world where I can tell you there are just tens of billions of dollars have been squirreled away in bank accounts that somehow they get to do. And these are people on a public payroll, yet they’re billionaires at the expense of their nation.”

“And it disadvantages all those businesses that don’t want to pay a bribe or can’t pay a bribe that want to have a fair shake on the competitive playing field,” he said, adding, however, that “the good news is that more and more citizens all around the world are saying ‘nomas’ to that – not anymore, none – and they’re stopping it, and they’re working to increase openness, to increase accountability and hold leaders to a higher standard.”

Among attendees were Prime Minister Andrew Holness of Jamaica and Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley of Trinidad and Tobago, “who are both making their first official trip to Washington in those capacities”, Kerry said.

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