Prime Minister Freundel Stuart will lead a delegation to the first ever CARICOM-Japan Summit, to be held in Trinidad and Tobago on Monday, July 28.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean; Permanent Secretary in Prime Minister???s Office, Sonja Welch; and Permanent Secretary responsible for Foreign Affairs, Charles Burnett, will accompany the Prime Minister.

This year marks 20 years of relations between CARICOM and Japan, and this would be the first visit to the region by a Prime Minister of Japan. A number of events are slated to recognise this milestone, including the designation of 2014 as CARICOM-Japan Friendship Year, and the proposal to convene the Fourth CARICOM-Japan Foreign Ministers Meeting in Tokyo in November 2014.

Following his meeting with CARICOM leaders on Monday morning, Japan???s Prime Minister, Shinzo Abe, will have bilateral conversations with each Head of Government. A number of agreements are also to be signed.

Since the establishment of diplomatic relations in 1967 between Barbados and Japan, bilateral relations have been cordial. Technical cooperation between Barbados and Japan has been administered under the Japanese International Cooperation Agency (JICA). While Barbados no longer receives bilateral aid under Japan???s Official Development Assistance Programme because of its upper middle income country rating, Barbados still benefits from a number of regional initiatives implemented by the Japanese government in fisheries, disaster management and cultural exchanges, under the New Framework for CARICOM-Japan Cooperation in the Twenty-first Century initiative.

Japan???s Ambassador to Barbados, Yoshimasa Tezuka, is accredited from his resident post in Trinidad and Tobago. In March 2014, he attended the Signing Ceremony of the contract for the Grant Assistance for Grassroots Human Security Project Programme. Under this programme, the Government of Japan gave Barbados a grant of US$100,000, which will be used to install photovoltaic systems in ten schools.

In recent years, Barbadians have also benefited from numerous training programmes offered by JICA and other agencies, in a number of areas. Recently, Research Officer in the Ministry of Tourism, Kerry Layne, participated in the Sustainable Tourism Development in CARICOM Countries training programme held in Okinawa, Japan, and Foreign Service Officer, Kamille Hope, participated in the Young Diplomats Invitation Programme for CARICOM Member States in Japan in February 2014.

The Summit is expected to add vibrancy to the relations between CARICOM countries and Japan, and to set the tone for the upcoming Foreign Ministers??? consultation in November.

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