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Meeks, a member of the Caribbean Caucus and the International Relations Committee, visited Antigua and St. Lucia on the tab of the Inter-American Economic Council, a group funded by banks and financial institutions, he said.
The organization arranged the trip for Meeks, his wife, U.S. Rep. Donald Payne (D-N.J.) and several congressional staffers to discuss the economies of the Caribbean islands, he said. Meeks and Payne both represent a large number of Caribbean constituents.
"I'm a part of the Caribbean Caucus, and the Caribbean governments were concerned about the Patriot Act and the negative effects it was having on their economies," he said.
The Patriot Act, passed after the Sept. 11, 2001 attacks, expanded police powers to fight terrorism. As part of that, the section of the act covering money laundering imposed stiffer reporting regulations on offshore banks to track money that might be linked to terrorists.
The delegation also discussed trade issues with the government leaders they met, Meeks said. The Caribbean officials expressed their concerns over how proposed trade acts covering the Americas would affect their economies, he said.
"We had an opportunity to work out some dialogue so that we can work collectively together to understand how these bills will affect our third-border nations," Meeks said of the Caribbean islands. "They say that when the U.S. economy catches a cold, in the Caribbean they catch a pneumonia."
Meeks' trip to Antigua and St. Lucia followed a trip he took to India led by state Sen. Malcolm Smith (D-St. Albans) and sponsored by the South Asian International Women's Organizational, Mentoring and Entrepreneurship Network.
"Again, we met with prominent government and business leaders," he said. "We had the opportunity to see the abject poverty they have there. They still have incidents of polio."
Meeks, who represents more South Asian constituents than any other representative, said the trip focused on developing cooperation and preventing terrorism in what can be a very dangerous area, he said.
"We want to make sure we're fighting terrorism collectively there."
Reach reporter Courtney Dentch by e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 138.
©2004 Community Newspaper Group
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