Published on 25 May 2016 by venezuelanalysis.com.

maduro and keith rowley

Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro has struck a set of “historic” bilateral deals with his Trinidadian counterpart, including the creation of a joint energy project geared towards natural gas exportation.

Both heads of state announced the series of cross-border initiatives in energy, security, and commerce on Monday from St Ann’s, Trinidad and Tobago, where Maduro met with Prime-Minister Keith Rowley during a whirlwind trip to the Caribbean.

“We just signed some agreements of a historic nature for the mutual benefit of our peoples, through the common gas fields that we have in our countries,” said Maduro.

The Venezuelan president explained that both governments intended to invest in the creation of a joint natural gas venture that would “give fast results and enrichment for the benefit of both of our peoples”.

PM Rowley also emphasised the “far reaching consequences” of the move for both populations, and confirmed that the purpose of the bilateral initiative would be to sell natural gas on the international energy market.

In commerce, Maduro revealed that the two countries would work together to increase cross-border trade through the creation of a “rotating US$50 billion fund”.

“We are going to begin a commercial route to the whole eastern economic region of the country from Trinidad and Tobago,” confirmed President Maduro.

For his part, PM Rowley said that he hoped the people of Trinidad and Tobago could provide “some significant relief to the people of Venezuela” through the “supply of manufactured goods”.

Although details are scarce in this initial phase, some news agencies have speculated that the deal is aimed at helping to resolve the chronic shortages of staple foods that have been afflicting Venezuela.

Trinidadian Trade and Industry Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon later confirmed to press that staples such as chicken, black beans and ketchup were amongst the items that Venezuela had requested, reported the Trinidad Guardian.

Gopee-Scoon explained Venezuela will now send her government a request for “eight priority items” which will be shipped to the South American country as soon as manufacturers say they are ready.

“That is how we are going to kick off the trade. I believe it will be on a revolving basis. So this fund will be fed into and replenished and so on,” she clarified to press.

The minister added that a Venezuelan delegation would visit the island in the nearer future to “flesh out” the details, and “put up all the mechanisms in place so that we can facilitate easy passage of goods from here to there”.

In addition to the agreements in energy and commerce, both governments confirmed that they had discussed their shared commitment to combatting “narcotics and criminal gangs” and would initiate an “era” of collaboration in bilateral security. Their respective security ministers will meet in Caracas on May 30th to discuss the issue further, said Maduro.

Monday’s top-level meeting also produced advancements in the field of justice and immigration, and the two administrations will now “take steps” to repatriate citizens “in detention on both sides of the border,” confirmed Rowley.

Maduro landed in Trinidad and Tobago on Sunday night following a brief courtesy visit to Jamaica.

From Kingston the Venezuelan president reiterated his government’s commitment to deepening its Petrocaribe oil programme in the Caribbean and agreed to increase cultural ties and trade relations with Jamaica’s Prime Minister, Andrew Holness. He also signed off on a deal to help Jamaica improve its oil refinery infrastructure.

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