The invitation by Saudi Arabia to Caricom leaders for a summit in Riyadh this week that had Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley jetting out of the country yesterday, is within a broader context than what Caricom and the Government have disclosed.
Just days from now, on November 28, the 173rd General Assembly of the United Nations will vote to decide which country will host the 2030 World Expo, and the three competing cities are Busan in South Korea, Rome in Italy and Riyadh, Saudi Arabia.
This week’s summit, therefore, is no coincidence and is of no small significance, considering that the last expo held in Dubai realised a benefit to the United Arab Emirates of US$42 billion and attracted 24 million visitors between October 2021 and March 2022.
Japan, which will host the upcoming 2025 event in Osaka, estimates it will attract 30 million people and earn a minimum of $15 billion from it.
Furthermore, the investments and international prestige that come with hosting the events contribute to subsequent years of economic benefits.
Caricom, therefore, with voting power of 15 full members and five associated countries, is worth wooing.
When the UN Assembly is called to order in two weeks’ time, it’s the hope that those who sought to sweeten the pot best will get the support of the region in return.
South Korea’s Prime Minister Han Duck-soo became the first person of such rank to visit T&T when he came in July this year for the 45th Caricom Heads of Government Conference, promising to increase his country’s contribution to the Korea-Caricom Cooperation Fund fivefold in 2024 during his visit.
Also, just days ago, Minister in the Office of the Prime Minister Stuart Young, met with a delegation of the Saudi Fund for Development, where he was told that T&T could benefit from the US$30 billion in the fund.
To add to the curry favour, Saudi Arabia’s Crown Prince and Prime Minister Mohammed bin Salman, who has been at the forefront of Riyadh’s promotion as host of the 2030 Expo, will co-chair the Caricom-Saudi Summit.
Caricom and Trinidad and Tobago’s bargaining positions seldom come as strong as these, as this summit presents a golden opportunity to seek, from one of the world’s richest countries, meaningful returns that will benefit our people.
Against this backdrop, Prime Minister Rowley is duty-bound to seek direct benefits for T&T through these talks.
The statement by his office on his departure noted that leaders are scheduled to participate in issues not just of global and inter-regional concerns, but on bilateral matters as well.
The benefits of such talks cannot be underestimated, particularly if, by way of skilful negotiations, we are able to secure the right investments needed to improve our healthcare and safety systems, economic diversity and a stronger social safety framework.
We have seen good negotiations under this Government that helped revive the Dragon Field gas deal with Venezuela and expect more positive news when Dr Rowley travels to London in December to discuss the ownership restructure of Atlantic LNG to bring more value to T&T.
We trust that Dr Rowley’s Saudi trip will likewise result in a win for our nation.