Welcome address by PRIME MINSTER to Delegates of the 5th SUMMIT

Patrick Manning, Prime Minister, Republic of Trinidad and Tobago

Greetings on behalf of Trinidad and Tobago, host country of the Fifth Summit of the Americas, 2009!

It is indeed, an honor and a privilege for Trinidad and Tobago to have been chosen to host this most important summit of hemispheric leaders, especially since this is the first time a Summit of the Americas is being held in a Caribbean state. This provides a strategic opportunity for Trinidad and Tobago and its CARICOM partners to play a leadership role in the geopolitics of our hemisphere and help shape a development agenda that will serve to enhance sustainable development across the entire region.

This Fifth Summit of the Americas takes place at a most critical time in global economic and political affairs. Our world is confronted with an historically unprecedented combination of global crises – environmental, financial, political, etc., which interestingly enough, also provide incredible opportunities for positive change.

The process of collaboration and integration is already well on the way, as the Summit theme – “Securing our Citizens’ Future by Promoting Human Prosperity, Energy Security and Environmental Sustainability” – has been developed in consultation with a wide range of stakeholders, including the Organization of American States (OAS), the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), the Andean Development Corporation (CAF), civil society, the regional private sector and many others. This valued collaboration is important because it has provided us all with an opportunity to make significant contributions to address the growing challenges facing our hemisphere.

Hosting the Summit at this time is a most appropriate venture for Trinidad and Tobago, because we are at a most unique point on our developmental path. This country has experienced 15 consecutive years of economic growth, and we have one of the most highly industrialised economies in the Greater Caribbean. While the bulk of our revenues come from our world renowned energy sector, we also have a highly developed manufacturing and services sector, especially financial services.

Of course the true strength of this nation lies in our multi-ethnic peoples, whose ancestors came here from virtually every corner of the globe and have been able to create a true melting pot of cultures, traditions and religions. At this crucial moment in our history we are determined to leverage on our solid resource base and strategic geographic location at the crossroads of the Americas, to position our nation at the forefront of regional development.

As we prepare for this historic summit, it would serve us well to recognize and appreciate, against this backdrop of ideological division, socio-political tension and integration dynamics, that our age is one of increasing interdependence. Our goal therefore, should be hemispheric integration and solidarity. Indeed, our shared heritage and common cultural traits provide the basis for such a movement.

The Summit must therefore examine how we address the crises facing us, consider mechanisms for generating investment flows among our countries which together constitute a market of over 800,000,000 people, and develop approaches to move us forward in pursuit of enhanced economic growth and development. Our people are a tremendous resource, and their input also provides the basis for crafting an enduring economic and social dynamic, whose spin off benefits could ensure prosperity, sustainable development and opportunity across the region.

Like all our partners in the Americas, I have great expectations that we will be afforded new opportunities for enhanced cooperation and engagement in securing a stable political, social, economic and security environment for all the peoples of Americas.

I assure you, that as Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago, I look forward to working with other Heads from the Americas region in securing on-going and long term benefits for our peoples. We are doing everything possible to ensure a people centered, results- oriented summit. We shall concentrate on what unifies us rather on what divides us and focus seriously on a common agenda, in a true spirit of engagement and fellowship.

The citizens of Trinidad and Tobago look forward to welcoming you with our traditional warmth and hospitality and hope that all our deliberations will move us further along the path to enduring peace, stability and prosperity for all our societies.

Ladies and Gentlemen, our time is NOW! Together, we can achieve the prosperity we seek as peoples of the Americas. Let us do so together with commitment, mutual respect and love.

Welcome to the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.