4:36 P.M. EST
THE VICE PRESIDENT: Good afternoon, everyone. Good afternoon. Thank you all for joining us today for this very important meeting. I am Kamala Harris, and I’m pleased to welcome you all to this conversation and this convening.
As a neighbor in the Western Hemisphere, the United States shares a common bond with the nations of the Caribbean. As neighbors, we know our partnership is key to our shared prosperity and security.
We also know that we have common challenges. And that is why I’ve convened this meeting: to strengthen our partnership and chart a path forward together.
As we all know, our nations have extensive people-to-people ties. Millions of Americans have Caribbean heritage. Millions of Americans travel to the Caribbean each year for vacation, to visit friends and family, and to engage with the richness of that history.
From South Florida to New York and beyond, Caribbean culture has become a meaningful part of American culture. And we are all grateful for that.
At the same time, we recognize that we find ourselves collectively in a challenging time. The pandemic has upended so many aspects of our lives and the lives of our people. And economic recovery has been difficult and uneven for so many in this region.
There is also an existential threat we collectively face in the climate crisis, and we are acutely aware that the world’s emissions have an outsize impact on the Caribbean.
In light of this, I want to be clear: The United States is committed to you, our neighbors, and we will take on these challenges together. Convenings like this haven’t happened very often. So, today, as a demonstration of our administration’s commitment, I propose this be an annual meeting.
We have, of course, today, a lot to discuss. And there are three areas in particular that I will ask us to focus on — areas that I know are a priority for many of you: economic recovery, security, and climate and energy.
On the issue of economic recovery, the United States is the Caribbean’s biggest economic partner. This partnership benefits the economy of the United States just as it benefits your economies. So we will explore today how we can strengthen that economic partnership.
On the issue of security, I know for many of you that you are particularly concerned about the trafficking of drugs and guns, and the associated violence. That is why today’s agenda includes a discussion of additional funding and other support the United States can offer to reduce violence in the region.
And third, we will discuss the urgent issue for our entire planet: the issue of the climate crisis. In particular, we will discuss ways to strengthen your climate resilience and to accelerate the transition to a clean energy economy.
Your input will help guide the United States’ effort in the days and months ahead.
To each of you: I thank you for being here, and I thank you for the work we have done and will continue to do together. I look forward to our discussion today and to our gathering in Los Angeles at the Summit of the Americas in June.
Thank you to the members of the press who are watching these opening remarks. We will now proceed with the rest of our meeting. Thank you.