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Engel Bill to Enhance Caribbean Ties Clears Committee

ENGEL BILL TO ENHANCE CARIBBEAN TIES CLEARS COMMITTEE

WASHINGTON—Representative Eliot L. Engel, Ranking Member of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, today welcomed unanimous approval by the Committee of his legislation to prioritize the United States-Caribbean relationship.  The United States-Caribbean Strategic Engagement Act of 2016, which Rep. Engel introduced last week with Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (FL), would require the Secretary of State and the Administrator of the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) to submit to Congress a multiyear strategy focused on outreach to the countries of the Caribbean and diaspora communities in the U.S., improving energy security, countering violence, ramping up diplomacy, and other priority areas.

“It’s a big world with a lot of challenges—some that get more attention than others.  So it’s important to stay focused on our neighbors in the Caribbean.  These countries are profoundly important to the United States,” said Rep. Engel at today’s Committee markup. “This bill makes it clear that U.S.-Caribbean relations are a major priority.”

“We’ll end up with the best policy if we shape it in consultation with the many Caribbean-American citizens in the United States,” Rep. Engel continued. “It’s a strength for us to have such a strong and vibrant diaspora community.  So this bill also calls for revitalized outreach to this community, seeking greater input on ideas for economic development and citizen security.”

The legislation requires the State Department and USAID to:

·         Identify agency efforts to prioritize U.S. policy towards the Caribbean;

·         Outline an approach to broaden outreach to the Caribbean diaspora community in the United States;

·         Outline an approach to partner with governments of the Caribbean region to improve citizen security and reduce drug trafficking;

·         Establish a comprehensive, multi-year strategy to improve energy security and increase access to diverse, reliable, affordable and sustainable power;

·         Outline an approach to improve diplomatic engagement with governments of the Caribbean region; and

·         Develop an approach to assisting Caribbean countries in the diversification of their economies.

In addition, the bill requires the Government Accountability Office to produce two key reports:

·         An evaluation of the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI) and a breakdown of CBSI assistance provided to each country; and

·         An evaluation of U.S. diplomatic engagement with the Eastern Caribbean.