GEORGETOWN, Guyana--Colombia’s new Ambassador to the Caribbean Community CARICOM, Martha Pinilla, said on Wednesday that her country is willing to make every effort to participate in the Caribbean mega-festival of arts: CARIFESTA XIV, scheduled for August 16-25 in Trinidad and Tobago.

  CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque extended the invitation to Pinilla, as he received her credentials at the Georgetown, Guyana Headquarters of the CARICOM Secretariat.

  Underscoring the importance of face-to-face contact, LaRocque said the significant presence of people of CARICOM origin in Colombia presents ideal opportunities to strengthen relations.

  In this vein, he told Pinilla that CARIFESTA XIV is “an excellent opportunity” for Colombia and CARICOM to share their cultural experiences.

  Pinilla said enhancing diplomatic ties with the region is a foreign policy priority of Colombian President Iván Duque’s government. The presentation of her credentials, she said, is one of several actions in that regard. Other actions include visits to eight CARICOM countries by Colombia’s Foreign Minister Carlos Trujillo and a bilateral meeting with the Secretary-General.

  CARICOM and Colombia are expected to resuscitate high-level political dialogue to discuss cooperation in areas of mutual interest in Cartagena on June 29, at the first meeting of Ministers of Foreign Affairs of CARICOM and Colombia.

  LaRocque said his recent discussions with Trujillo focussed on areas such as trade, technical cooperation, disaster management and security. However, he stressed the importance of reviving trade between CARICOM and Colombia in light of data which revealed that total trade exceeded US $3 billion up to 2013, but has since declined to $520 million by 2016.

  In this regard, he said the Council for Trade and Economic Development COTED has agreed to Colombia’s proposal to host the seventh meeting of the Joint Council – the main implementing mechanism established under the 1994 Agreement on Trade, Economic and Technical Cooperation between CARICOM and Colombia.

  Pinilla agreed that the agreement “is an ideal tool to continue interlacing” CARICOM’s and Colombia’s economies.

  While the agreement addresses economic and technical cooperation, LaRocque said human resource development, science and technology, research and development, renewable energy, tourism and agricultural development, and migration are other areas of common interest they can explore.

  LaRocque requested Colombian support for CARICOM’s advocacy for international policies that allow for a balanced approach in the provision of financial resources to help Small Island Developing States (SIDS) combat climate change and build resilience.