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Waters Delivers Opening Statement at Historic Full Committee Hearing on the Impacts of De-Risking on the Caribbean

Today, Congresswoman Maxine Waters (D-CA), Chairwoman of the House Committee on Financial Services, gave the following statement at a full Committee hybrid hearing entitled, “When Banks Leave: The Impacts of De-Risking on the Caribbean and Strategies for Ensuring Financial Access.”

I would like to welcome the Prime Minister of Barbados, the Honorable Mia Amor Mottley, to the Financial Services Committee and thank her for being here to discuss an issue that I’ve long dedicated my time to solving: the crisis of bank de-risking in the Caribbean. By appearing here today, Prime Minister Mottley is giving voice to a topic that matters to every person in the Caribbean and, as we’ll discuss, everyone in the United States, too.

Today’s testimony by Prime Minister Mottley isn’t just timely; it’s historic. It marks the first time in nearly 40 years that a Prime Minister will testify before Congress. Her presence today underscores the gravity of this issue and the urgent need to take serious steps to end the deterioration of global financial access for her nation and the whole of the region.

Prime Minister Mottley, I’m so pleased to welcome you to the United States and look forward to hearing your testimony and listening to the ways we can all work together to reverse de-risking. I am also pleased to acknowledge Dr. Keith Rowley, the Prime Minister of Trinidad and Tobago. Thank you, Mr. Prime Minister, for joining us today to lend your support.

For too long the lack of financial access faced by Caribbean nations and their majority Black populations has been blatantly ignored. As Chairwoman of the Committee, and even long before I assumed the Chair, I’ve worked with stakeholders to combat the de-risking we’ve seen harm businesses and families across the Caribbean and the United States for more than 10 years.

Financial access is key to a nation’s stability, but for our neighbor island nations, whose economies rely on cross-border transactions, they’re being denied this path to prosperity and resiliency.

The Caribbean is very close to the United States, not only in geography but also in its shared economy, culture, and security. This is reflected in the mutual trade and tourism, which fuel jobs and economic growth, here and in the region, as well as in the 8.5 million members of the Caribbean diaspora community who have chosen the United States as their home.

We must acknowledge that our nation’s security and wellbeing is directly linked to that of the Caribbean nations and that dwindling financial access endangers these mutual benefits.

So, that’s why back in April, Prime Minister Mottley and I led the Caribbean Financial Access Roundtable, with nearly a dozen heads of state, Members of Congress, and other stakeholders, to discuss concrete solutions. In addition, my Committee worked to secure key anti-money laundering provisions in the 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, including a mandate for a United States government-wide strategy to address financial de-risking.

Without action on this issue, we risk ceding our leadership in this region to countries like China and Russia, which have been working hard in recent years to become more active in the Caribbean.

It’s clear that combatting the loss of United States correspondent banking relationships in the Caribbean should be a mutual priority for both the Caribbean and the United States.

Solving this crisis requires us to work together, from government examiners to correspondent banks and civil society organizations, to international financial institutions and standard-setting organizations.

Congress has a role, too. Under my leadership, the Committee continues to press for action on the collaborative solutions needed — solutions like removing any unsubstantiated stigma of the region in government reports, and helping streamline bank examinations, to name a few. Now’s the time to move on these measures.

Thank you.

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