Upcoming visits of the Jamaican deputy prime minister and other Caribbean officials to Atlanta underscore the importance of Georgia-Caribbean trade, according to Alex Mejia, program director of commercial diplomacy of CIFAL Atlanta. CIFAL Atlanta is one of 12 United Nations Institute for Training and Research centers that is implementing the U.N.’s development goals for the urban areas worldwide.

Mr. Mejia visited Jamaica last week to promote Atlanta as a contender for the headquarters of the Free Trade Area of the Americas. As the Caribbean’s leading economy, Jamaica is an integral partner in Georgia’s Caribbean trade activities, and Jamaican authorities say Georgia is the second most important U.S. state for its commercial relations, he told GlobalAtlanta.

Deputy secretary general of the Caribbean trade pact CARICOM, Lolita Applewhite, agreed to be a speaker at a CIFAL Atlanta workshop here, April 21-23, focusing on the challenges of free trade in the Caribbean. Kingston, Jamaica, Mayor Desmond McKenzie will also speak during the event, as will members of JAMPRO, Jamaica’s foreign trade promotions agency. Officials from 14 Caribbean nations are expected to participate.

Additionally, Jamaican Deputy Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, who is slated to become the Prime Minister of Jamaica in September, accepted an invitation to visit Atlanta in May.

These visits attest to the strength of the Georgia-Caribbean relationship, Mr. Mejia said. “If Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, drops out of the competition for the FTAA Secretariat, Atlanta is the Caribbean’s next choice,” he added, noting that the CARICOM member countries are currently committed to voting for Port-au-Prince as a fellow Caribbean city. The CIFAL workshop, “Free Trade Challenges and Threats for the Caribbean Region,” will feature some 20 officials from Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guayana, Jamaica, Surinam and Trinidad and Tobago discussing ways Georgia and the Caribbean can take advantage of the FTAA.

Mr. Mejia will be traveling to Venezuela next week, Trinidad and Tobago the following week, and St. Lucia and St. Kitts islands at the beginning of April to promote Atlanta as “good place for free trade,” he said.

Contact Mr. Mejia at (404) 661-7164 for more information.