PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad, Wednesday February 25, 2015, CMC – Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ended a one day visit here on Tuesday that Prime Minister Kamla Persad Bissessar said underscored the “strong bond of friendship and cooperation between the two countries”.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that during the talks, several areas of mutual interest were raised including a consultative mechanism for ongoing dialogue, energy, air services and tourism as well as the debt owed to the state-owned airline Caribbean Airlines Ltd (CAL) and the “matter of the status of our nationals presently detained in Venezuela”.
She said that Trinidad and Tobago’s interest in furthering bilateral cooperation with Venezuela in energy matters is at its strongest that Port of Spain welcomed the finalization for signature of the “ Unitisation Agreement for the Exploitation and Development of Hydrocarbon Reservoirs of the “MANAKIN – COCUINA FIELD” that extends across the delimitation line between the two countries.
A joint statement issued after the signing ceremony, noted that the two countries had “expressed their commitment to the advancement of the process of Unitization of Hydrocarbon Reservoirs between the two Republics”
It said the unitization process seeks to develop important natural gas reserves which extend across the delimitation line between the two states, adding “both governments also expressed their interests in the prompt operational start-up for the development of this Field by the exploration and production companies involved in the project.
“The conclusion of these Agreements between the two Republics is of significant relevance within the context of the Latin American and Caribbean integration and contributes to the further deepening of the energy relationship between the two countries, laying the foundations for the development of cooperation mechanisms for the identification and joint implementation of projects within the hydrocarbon value chain for the socio-economic benefit of both countries.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said there was also the Framework Agreement on Energy Sector Cooperation between the countries, quoting her Energy Minister Kevin Ramnarine as saying “ this is the first time in the western hemisphere that there is the commercialization of cross border reserves and this has only happened three times in the world before”.
Maduro said the two countries were showing the world how to operate in a climate of conflict and other dangers.
“We can easily see around the world the conflicts, the war, the tensions that are created as a result of the development and the use of resources of energy, gas, etc.
“On the contrary, in our case we have been able to pave the way for a cooperation that has been translated into agreement for the joint exploitation of our resources which are going to be mutually satisfactory and beneficial.
“I think Trinidad and Tobago and Venezuela are setting the example and showing to the world that it is possible to build a world of peace, understanding and development without the conflicts and without the confrontations that we have seen elsewhere in order to foster our developments,” he said.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that she was heartened “that we were able to resolve the issue of the outstanding debt owed to Caribbean Airlines and I hope we can continue to work together to resolve travel issues in a timely fashion”.
Maduro gave his commitment to pay the debt owed to CAL which is reported to be more than US$10 million.
“I want to thank his Excellency for a commitment given today for the debt owed to Caribbean Airlines… for some resolution to be brought to this and Excellency was very firm and adamant about the settlement of the debt to Caribbean Airlines Ltd,” she said.
She gave no indication as to the amount of the debt, but added that another significant proposal discussed during the meeting “were viable avenues for commodity trading between our two countries, as we seek to stimulate our local economies while engaging in trade with each other”.
Trinidad and Tobago’s main exports to Venezuela include gasoline, machine parts, air-conditioners, parts for refrigerators, toilet/facial tissue, and cement, while it imports commodities such as crude petroleum, gas oil, jet fuel, electric conductors, iron ore and bars and rods.
Prime Minister Persad Bissessar said that following the discussions “we are of the view that a mechanism for commodity sharing holds significant promise for both our countries.
“The concept of commodity sharing is simple – the Government of Trinidad and Tobago will purchase goods identified by the Government of Venezuela from Trinidad and Tobago manufacturers, such as tissue paper, gasoline, and parts for machinery, which are needed there.
“These would then be traded for commodities that are needed for our industries – in particular bitumen and crude oil – which can be supplied by Venezuela”.
She said that this new initiative is still at the planning stages and that there is need for a monitoring mechanism that would serve as key to its success.
“In this regard a joint inter-ministerial committee will be set up to ensure proper accountability and to monitor and evaluate this proposed system. We see these measures as having the potential to significantly benefit both our nations.
“For Trinidad and Tobago, this initiative will see the Government investing in the country’s local manufacturing sector, thereby further stimulating the industry.
“With the expected increase in production, it is envisaged that manufacturers in turn will look to expand their businesses, creating much needed jobs for our young people, and stimulating economic growth.
“It is expected that Venezuela’s economy will also be boosted as a result of this proposed initiative, through the trade of their commodities in exchange for finished products that the people of Venezuela need.”
Maduro arrived here at the head of a delegation of more than 100 people, including his wife, son and six government ministers.
As he made his way to the Diplomatic Centre on the outskirts of the capital, his motorcade was greeted by several Venezuelan nationals protesting his presence and the situation in their homeland.
They carried placards calling on him to release the political prisoners, including the mayor, Antonio Ledezma, 59, who was seized by intelligence agents in his office last hursday and charged the next day for “conspiring” against the socialist government which has been alleging a U.S.-backed coup plot.
Washington has denied the accusation.
But there were also support for Maduro’s visit with members and supporters of the Movement for Social Justice (MSJ) holding up banners welcoming him to the twin-island Republic.