USVI Governor ends visit to St. Lucia

Governor of the United States Virgin Islands, John P. de Jongh, Jr. is ending a three-day visit here on Friday holding talks on strengthening relations between the two islands.

In talks with Prime Minister Dr. Kenny Anthony, the USVI official discussed the impact of the closure of the Hess Oil Refinery would have on the economy of St Croix.

Hess Oil is also preparing to close its oil trans-shipment facility here.

“Of particular concern to Governor de Jongh, was the displeasure of CARICOM over the protection extended to rum producers in the US Virgin Islands by the United States Government,” according to a statement from the office of the Prime Minister.

It said that the governments of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) have expressed their concerns to the United States government but to date the matter remains unresolved.

Issues regarding the rum industry were also discussed and the statement said that Governor de Jongh explained to Prime Minister Anthony the importance of the sector to the economy of the US Virgin Islands.

Last month, the USVI Governor wrote to CARICOM governments urging them to back down on their plans to take their ongoing rum dispute before the World Trade Organization (WTO).

Earlier this year, Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart said that rum producing countries had been holding high-level talks with the United States on resolving issues surrounding the rum industry in the region.

Stuart said the discussions, which were also attended by officials from the Dominican Republic, were necessary since, within recent time, subsidies had been given to rum producers in the USVI and Puerto Rico, much to the disadvantage of Caribbean rum producers, including Barbados.

He said the situation is so serious that Barbados is prepared to take its case to the World Trade Organization (WTO) if a solution is not forthcoming.

In his March 4 letter de Jongh tells the regional leaders that the WTO filing could “inflict damage on all of our economies”.

The government statement Friday said that Prime Minister Anthony “shared with the Governor the range of factors, historical and otherwise, which he thought that CARICOM would have to consider in determining its approach to the issue”.

It said that Anthony reiterated St. Lucia's commitment to cordial relations which would redound to the benefit of citizens of both countries.