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Summit programme takes shape

By Clint Chan Tack Sunday, February 15 2009

THE HYATT Regency Trinidad Hotel in Port-of-Spain and the Prime Minister’s Diplomatic Centre in St Ann’s will be the main venues used in this country to host activities related to the Fifth Summit of the Americas. The summit takes place from April 17 to 19. According to a bulletin issued by the National Secretariat on January 26, the official schedule for the summit’s main events has been developed.

All 33 visiting Heads of State, including United States President Barack Obama, will arrive on April 16. Shortly after their arrival, the leaders will immediately go into a series of bilateral meetings and/or briefing meetings. The opening ceremony takes place in the Hyatt Regency’s ballroom on April 17 from 5 to 6 pm. The leaders and their delegations will be treated to a cultural show from 6 to 7 pm in the ballroom. Prime Minister Patrick Manning and his wife, Local Government Minister Hazel Manning will then host a cocktail reception for the leaders, their spouses and special guests.

The leaders will get down to work early on April 18 with bilateral discussions from 8 to 9.30 am.

This will be followed by the first plenary session at the Hyatt’s ballroom with a holding room for alternates elsewhere in the hotel. Prime Minister Patrick Manning will host a working lunch for the visiting Heads of State in the ballroom from 12.30 to 3 pm. The second and third plenary sessions will be held in the ballroom from 3 to 6.45 pm.on April 18. Activities at the Hyatt will end on the evening of April 18 when Manning hosts an official dinner in the hotel’s ballroom for his fellow leaders.

On April 19, the final day of the summit, all 34 leaders will hold a retreat at the Diplomatic Centre. The closing ceremony, signing of the Declaration of Port-of-Spain and final press conference will take place at the Diplomatic Centre on April 19 as well. While Manning and the visiting leaders are holding talks, the leaders’ spouses will be given an opportunity “to witness the country’s innovative growth path to development and engage in discussions relevant to the development of their own nations.” These activities include a “tour of nature reserve” on April 18 from 2 to 3 pm. The spouses will be given a tour of Port-of-Spain on April 19 at 9.30 am. This will be followed by a fashion show at 10 am. All leaders and their delegations are scheduled to leave this country on April 19 and 20.

The private sector, civil society and youth fora will be held on board the cruise ships Caribbean Princess and Carnival Victory from April 15 to 16. These ships which will be docked at the Port-of-Spain port. Works and Transport Minister Colm Imbert said the port will not be shut down because of the summit. In a meeting with OAS and US National Secretariat coordinator Ambassador Hector Morales at his St Clair Office on February 4, the Prime Minister assured him that preparations are proceeding according to plan.

Each of the 33 delegations that will attend the Fifth Summit of the Americas in April will be allocated one suite at the 428 room-Hyatt “for the Head of State and/or Government or Head of Delegation and six additional rooms.” The Secretariat indicated that the suite for the head of the delegation plus one executive “will be provided courtesy of the Government of the Republic of Trinidad and Tobago.” The cost of the other five rooms allocated to each delegation, “will be borne by the respective delegation.

Two rooms each at the Hyatt and the cost will be borne by the respective organisation. Additional rooms will be available on the cruise liners Caribbean Princess and Carnival Victory that will anchored at the Port-of-Spain port in the vicinity of the hotel. Reservations for suites and rooms at the Hyatt must be made by February 28.

Rooms at the Hyatt which are not reserved by this date will be reallocated to other delegates. Delegations requiring additional rooms at the Hyatt must make a formal request to the Secretariat by February 28. Additional rooms will be granted subject to availability. Online reservations for delegates staying on the cruise ships open on or before February 16 and close on March 16. Persons registering after March 16, are not guaranteed accommodation on either ship. Delegates will be allowed to check in on both ships from 8 pm on April 13 and must check out by noon on April 20.

The holders of passports from Bolivia, Haiti and Paraguay will require visas if they want to visit Trinidad and Tobago during this country’s hosting of the Fifth Summit of the Americas from April 17 to 19. The citizens of Caricom nations other than Haiti do not require visas to enter TT during this period. The holders of passports issued by Argentina, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Peru, United States, Uruguay and Venezuela do not require visas for entry into this country for visits up to 90 days.

Visitors are allowed to enter the country with articles for personal use. These articles are exempt from duties and taxes if they are declared on arrival and exported on departure. These personal items include clothing, personal computers and camera. A limited quantity of alcoholic beverages and tobacco products for personal use are also allowed duty and tax free entry.

Alcoholic beverages (per person) are limited to wine or spirits not exceeding 1.5 litres. Tobacco products (per person): tobacco not exceeding 250 grammes; cigars not exceeding 50 in number or cigarettes not exceeding 200 in number. Delegations wishing to enter the country with items in excess of these allowances must notify the Secretariat at least two weeks prior to their travel to TT. The Summit of the Americas is the only forum where the 34 democratically elected Heads of State and Government of the Western Hemisphere meet to exchange ideas and opinions on the political, economic, social, and security challenges confronting the region and to develop a shared vision for the development of the hemisphere. On June 5, 2006, Ministers of Foreign Affairs of the Americas meeting in the Dominican Republic at the thirty-sixth regular session of the OAS General Assembly formally accepted the offer of the government of Trinidad and Tobago to host the Fifth Summit of the Americas in 2009.

On September 18, 2006, at the Ministerial Summit Implementation Review Group meeting in Washington DC, the Chair of the Summit of the Americas Process was officially passed from Argentina to Trinidad and Tobago. The Fourth Summit of the Americas was held in Mar del Plata, Argentina. on November 4, 2005.

This made TT the first Caricom nation to host the Summit since its inception in 1994. The Summit of the Americas will see Manning, Obama, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, Bolivian President Evo Morales and other leaders assemble in Port-of-Spain. Accompanying Obama to the Summit will be US Secretary of State Hilary Clinton whose husband, former US President Bill Clinton, chaired the 1994 Summit of the Americas in Miami.



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