Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Kamina Johnson-Smith, says this week’s engagements with Caribbean Foreign Ministers and representatives of the United States are bilateral and not within a CARICOM context.

Senator Johnson-Smith statement comes following what she says are reports in some sections of the media which suggest attempts are being made to divide CARICOM, as all of its members were not invited to bilateral meetings with United States Secretary of State Mike Pompeo in Jamaica this week. 

In a statement this afternoon Minister Johnson-Smith says there’s nothing unusual or divisive about the meetings.

She says all countries, have a sovereign right to engage bi-laterally with any other country, beyond any regional or hemispheric arrangements and that this happens across the world even in political unions.

She was quick to point out that CARICOM is not a political union. 

Minister Johnson Smith says Jamaicans should remember that the understanding in CARICOM is that member states should work to coordinate foreign policy and collaborate on issues.

The Foreign Affairs Minister says they can consider each other’s positions, there is no obligation to harmonize policy. 

She says since its formation, CARICOM members have, as is their sovereign right, voted differently and taken differing positions on a variety of issues.

She says Jamaica has always exercised that right and respected it when exercised by others. 

The Foreign Affairs Minister says Jamaica will continue to act in a principled manner to ensure that the region remains a “zone of peace”, while engaging with partner countries in advancing its development goals and economic interests. 

Minister Johnson Smith will join Prime Minister Andrew Holness and senior cabinet ministers for bilateral talks with Secretary Pompeo on Wednesday January 22.

Meetings with his Caribbean counterparts will take place after.