I am delighted to once again welcome His Excellency Shinzo Abe, Prime Minister of Japan and his delegation to the shores of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago, for his inaugural visit to the Caribbean.
Your Excellency, the Government and people of Trinidad and Tobago and the CARICOM Region are honoured by your visit, and we are pleased to share our diverse culture and natural beauty with you.
Trinidad and Tobago is proud to host this Japan/CARICOM Summit as it coincides with the 50th Anniversary of diplomatic relations between the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago and Japan, and the Japan-CARICOM Friendship Year 2014.
On this auspicious occasion, on behalf of the Government and People of Trinidad and Tobago, I extend a hand of friendship to the Government of Japan.
Over the years your Government has so graciously extended its friendship, not only to Trinidad and Tobago, but to the entire CARICOM region. This is reflected in the momentous celebration of 2014 as the Japan-CARICOM Friendship Year.
RELATIONS BETWEEN BOTH COUNTRIES
Yesterday evening I was privileged to hold bilateral talks with Prime Minister Abe, ahead of this Summit, during which several matters of mutual interest to both our Nations were discussed.
I am confident that today’s proceedings will further strengthen the existing excellent relations between Japan and the nations of CARICOM.
Trinidad and Tobago notes and welcomes Japan’s interest in the establishment of a Trinidad and Tobago Embassy in Tokyo, Japan.
Immediate consideration is being given to this matter as we believe it may facilitate increased tourism, trade and investment opportunities, not only for Trinidad and Tobago, but also our fellow CARICOM member States.
Your Excellency, we, the members of the Caribbean Community are indeed grateful for the support of the Government of Japan.
I also wish to thank the Government of Japan for their gestures to deepen and broaden cooperation within the CARICOM region and with the entire Latin America and Caribbean territory.
We look forward not only to the outcome of this Summit, but also to the activities ahead which will enable our countries to share cultural and technical experiences that will enrich all parties as we embark on this year of friendship.
I must say that we also take note of the resilience and fortitude of the people of Japan. Your determination to stand to your feet in the face of adversity has been an inspiration to developing and developed States.
The impact of the 2008 Global Financial Crisis was severe, and you took a further hit in the 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake. What was inspiring was to see the people and Government of Japan face these tremendous adversities frontally; paving the way for what is today a revitalised economy.
In fact, your determination to quickly recover and refocus has been to such a great extent that, by statistics provided by the International Trade Centre, Japanese goods accounted for 3.3 per cent of the total value of Trinidad and Tobago’s imports in the year 2013.
These imports comprise mainly automobiles, diesel powered trucks and buses, automobile parts, and tuna.
With regard to exports, Japan is a major export market for Trinidad and Tobago’s goods as statistics provided by the Central Statistics Office indicate that Japan was Trinidad and Tobago’s seventh largest export partner in the year 2013.
Exports are estimated at TTD $ 1,287,147,223 in goods.
Liquefied Natural Gas (LNG), followed by cocoa beans, and bitumen and asphalt comprise the majority of Trinidad and Tobago’s exports to that country. The balance of trade between both countries in 2013 was in Trinidad and Tobago’s favour.
In November 2013, on the basis of an aggressive drive undertaken by the Ministry of Energy and Energy Affairs to stimulate investment opportunities both in the upstream and downstream sectors of the domestic sector, the Methanol and Di Methyl Ether (DME) project at Union Estate, La Brea was undertaken.
This, as you will recall, was in collaboration with private sector involvement through the Neal and Massy Group (now Massy Holdings), and representatives of the Mitsubishi Consortium at a cost of USD$ 850 million (TTD$ 5.4 billion).
The project is the largest gas-based initiative planned within the last five (5) years and is seen as an anchor project for the South West Peninsula of Trinidad and Tobago. It will generate employment opportunities with a peak construction work force of approximately 3,000 and permanent employment of approximately 30 persons.
With this background and history of strong bilateral relations and warm diplomatic relations, I look forward to great success and favourable outcomes for us in the CARICOM.
As we begin today’s summit, I give the assurance to His Excellency the Prime Minister and his delegation that we are ready and open for business and hold strongly to the belief that the benefit to our peoples must remain our most important objective.
I thank you.
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