Fw: Travel pool report #4 4/9/15 -- CARICOM family photo and opening of plenary

From: Davis, Julie [mailto:xxx@email.com]
Sent: Thursday, April 09, 2015 01:33 PM
To: Allen, Jessica
Cc: WHCA print
Subject: Travel pool report #4 4/9/15 -- CARICOM family photo and opening of plenary

The motorcade arrived at 11:30 at the University of West Indies, a modern structure set amid grassy agricultural land. The pool held in a large lobby without seeing POTUS as we watched Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, standing on a red carpet i the center of the entranceway, greeting Caribbean leaders with double cheek-kisses. Ralph Gonsalves, the prime minister of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, held onto Simpson Miller and turned to that cameras to say, "Isn't she the most beautiful prime minister in the world? Let me hear ya say 'yea.' "

At 12:10, POTUS strode out to the hall and greeted a line of Caribbean leaders and other dignitaries. He hugged Simpson Miller and shook hands as he moved down the line, stopping when he reached the E. Nigel Harris, the vice chancellor of the university, to say, "We are thrilled to be here. Sorry we're taking over this building." To which Harris responded, "For you, we'd do anything." He was overheard by the broadcast pool telling one of the greeters that he was hoping to do a little teaching himself after he leaves office.

They then posed for a photo and retreated into an adjacent room, where they stayed for several minutes. Then all the Caribbean leaders walked out with POTUS, they took their places against a large blue and white CARICOM backdrop, and smiled for a photo, raising their hands to wave.

Your pool was then led to a large square meeting room with people seated around a three-sided table, with tropical flower arrangements lining the inner border. POTUS entered with Simpson Miller and everyone stood.

Seated at the table were Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz and National Security Adviser Susan Rice. Behind them were U.S. officials including Caroline Atkinson and Ricardo Zuniga of the NSC and Assistant Secretary of State for Western Hemisphere Affairs Roberta Jacobson. CARICOM leaders names at the bottom of this report.

Simpson Miller went first, saying she was "deeply honored" to host the event and give a "warm Jamaican welcome" to POTUS. "People across the Caribbean region followed both your election campaigns," she said, especially in 2008, adding that his "Yes we can slogan" was repeated often. "Your photograph has pride of place in living rooms," she said. She also congratulated POTUS again for his move to normalize relations with Cuba. "You have already broken new ground in US-Cuban relations. ... You're on the right side of history." Later she said, "We commend you, Mr. President, and President Raul Castro, for this bold and courageous move."

Bahamian Prime Minister Perry Christie, the CARICOM chairman, went next, emphasizing the ties between the United States and the Caribbean: "In many ways, we are kith and kin. ... It is a real working relationship." He noted that one of his grandmothers lived at West 110th Street in New York City. He praised POTUS for pursuing a nuclear deal with Iran and called the opening with Cuba "a pleasing and welcome development." He said Caribbean nations are grateful for American support in providing access to development financing and other support for efforts on climate change, energy and disaster management. He also raised an area of concern, saying "The importation of guns from America wreaks havoc, and needs to be stopped."

POTUS went last, saying "The bonds between us are extraordinarily strong," and saying he looked forward to discussing economic growth, open and transparent government and human rights and the security initiatives as well as energy. He said the meeting would focus in particular on "one of the greatest barriers to development in the Caribbean, and that is expensive, often unreliable and carbon-intensive energy. This region has some of the highest energy costs in the world. Caribbean countries are particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change, and we have to act now."

Thanks to co-pooler Karen DeYoung of the Washington Post for her help with quotes, but please check all against the transcript as always.

From the White House, here are the CARICOM leaders in attendance:

Gaston Browne, Prime Minister and Minister of Finance and Finance and Corporate Governance (Antigua and Barbuda)
Perry G. Christie, Prime Minister and Chair of the Conference of Heads of Government  (The Bahamas)
Freundel J. Stuart, Prime Minister (Barbados)
Wilfred Elrington , Minister of Foreign Affairs and Attorney General of Belize (Belize)
Roosevelt Skerrit, Prime Minister (Dominica)
Dr. Keith C. Mitchell, Prime Minister (Grenada)
Donald Ramotar, President (Guyana)
Joseph Michel Martelly , President (Haiti)
Portia Simpson-Miller, Prime Minister (Jamaica)
Dr. Timothy Harris, Prime Minister (St. Kitts and Nevis)
Dr. Kenny D. Anthony, Prime Minister (Saint Lucia)
Dr. Ralph E. Gonsalves, Prime Minister (St. Vincent and the Grenadines)
Subhas Mungra, Ambassador of Suriname in Washington (Suriname)
Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Prime Minister (Trinidad and Tobago)
Amb. Irwin LaRocque, Secretary-General (CARICOM Secretariat)

We are holding in a room downstairs as POTUS completes the CARICOM meeting.

Julie Hirschfeld Davis
White House Correspondent
The New York Times
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