NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Minister of Foreign Affairs Darren Henfield met with newly appointed US Charge d’Affaires Usha Pitts recently to discuss several areas of mutual interest between the United States and The Bahamas.
Both sides reportedly addressed bilateral matters, including the Biden-Harris administration’s immediate priorities, ongoing collaboration in the multilateral fora, cooperation to mitigate irregular migration, illicit narcotics trafficking, climate change, COVID-19, US travel advisories, border security, the US’ visa policy and the pending appointment of a US ambassador to The Bahamas.
Henfield told reporters outside Cabinet yesterday that the discussions also centered on China-Bahamas relations.
“Anytime you talk with the United States, you talk about China,” he said.
“Our position with China is that we share good diplomatic relations. We were among the first countries in the world to accept the ‘One China’ policy.
“We have good relations with China as well as we have very good relations with the United States of America, which we hope that we could go deeper in this new administration of the United States.”
The foreign affairs minister said he took the opportunity to discuss the US coronavirus travel restrictions and further highlighted travel warnings from the country’s state department that “impacts negatively on our tourism product”.
The Bahamas was recently moved down from a Level 4 to a Level 3 Travel Health Notice by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Henfield said: “We shared this notion that The Bahamas is an archipelago. Some islands in The Bahamas are not touched by crime or COVID, so I know it’s a stretch to ask but perhaps there can be some consideration for the archipelagic nature of The Bahamas.”
Additionally, the issuance of US visas and how “complicated it is for Bahamians to get a visa to visit the country” were also among the topics in the bilateral talks.
“Because we have these traditional, familial and historical ties to the US, Bahamians feel an absolute right to be able to visit,” he noted.
As for continued calls for the appointment of a US ambassador to The Bahamas, Henfield said: “That conversation did come up and this administration is as anxious as the last administration to get an ambassador in Nassau, in The Bahamas, to demonstrate even more directly the importance of this strategic relationship and partnership between our two countries. It’s very important to them as well as it is for us.”
Henfield extended congratulations to the newly elected Biden-Harris administration and conveyed the appreciation of The Bahamas on its immediate priorities, in particular the focus on combatting COVID-19 and climate change.
He further welcomed the US’s decision to return to the Paris Climate Agreement and to the World Health Organization (WHO), underscoring the stabilizing impact of the same on the global economy and environment.
The foreign affairs minister also emphasized the need for equitable access to vaccinations as the world grapples with the challenge of controlling the pandemic and inquired on the intention of the US government to offer support to allied countries in that regard.
He offered best wishes to Pitts for a successful tenure and expressed The Bahamas’ hope for deepened cooperation during her tour of duty.