10/22/2012 01:05 EDT | Updated 12/22/2012 05:12 EST

Harper hosts Jamaica's PM Simpson Miller for official visit

Prime Minister Stephen Harper welcomed his Jamaican counterpart Portia Simpson Miller to Parliament Hill Monday, on an official visit to mark 50 years of bilateral relations between the two Commonwealth countries.

"Canada and Jamaica have in fact been intertwined for centuries," Harper said, speaking fondly of his own visits to the country and noting that 300,000 Jamaicans now live in Canada.

Miller is on a four-day visit. This evening, both leaders will attend a Canada-Jamaica reception in Toronto in honour of her visit.

The focus of her tour is the promotion of investment opportunities in Jamaica. Bilateral trade between the two countries was worth $387.6 million in 2011.

Background information supplied by the foreign affairs department says that three of the major commercial banks in Jamaica are Canadian-owned: Scotiabank, CIBC First Caribbean International Bank, and RBC Royal Bank Jamaica (RBCJ). Major Canadian firms such as SNC-Lavalin also have significant Jamaican interests.

In June, Defence Minister Peter MacKay announced that the Canadian military would set up an operational support hub in Jamaica, to help with future deployments for humanitarian assistance or anti-terrorism operations.

Canada also represents Jamaica on the board of the International Monetary Fund.

The Canadian International Development Agency currently supports Jamaican farmers' efforts to sell their products in high-value international markets, as well as helping at-risk communities prepare for natural disasters.

2012 is the 50th anniversary of Jamaica's independence and bilateral relations between the two countries.

Miller was asked about Jamaica's future relationship with the British monarchy. Miller said that while she is a big admirer of the Queen, "the time is really right for us to be able to determine our form of government."

"We will always be members of the Commonwealth," Miller said.

Harper said Jamaica's position on the monarchy was "strictly a question for Jamaicans."