Ministry spending more to boost foreign trade

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs is committing $3.2 million of is $5 million budget towards creating a more robust trade agenda which has more non-traditional relationships.

Speaking on day seven of the Estimates Debate in Parliament yesterday, Senior Minister Kerrie Symmonds pointed to an increase in Barbados’ international trade already as an example of the progress being made so far.

He reported that between 2020 and 2021, Barbados’ exports were $441 million and rose to $502 million last year.

Symmonds, who is also the Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, said there needed to be more focus placed on the things which are of greater significance to the local economy.

“We do this by arranging trade agreements across the world and by trying to evolve from non-reciprocal and non-preferential arrangements,” he said.

“We have enjoyed arrangements with the United States of America and Canada who are major trading partners, but we must now forge more mature and fit for purpose trade agreements as opposed to arrangements in which the country and the region stand on their own two feet in regards to finding markets.”

There is belief within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs that they will be able to expand their diplomatic footprint into Ireland during the course of the financial year with the Minister saying that it is a relationship built upon heritage and has developed into something of commercial benefit.

“That (link to Ireland) has transformed itself into an investment relationship, ” Symmonds said. “We are already in Ghana and Kenya and the United Arab Emirates (UAE) and the advantages of this is not just to have new embassies created, but to build people to people contact. We are laying the platform for economic diversification and economic transformation.”

Barbados’ relationship with the UAE has extended its reach into the Gulf states for the first time in its existence. It comes at a time when the country is trying to find a platform economically for natural gas exploration as well as oil. It is viewed in-house as a strategic alliance with nations whose “bread and butter” is that type of endeavour.

Last month, Barbados’ High Commissioner to Kenya, Alex McDonald, was accredited to Rwanda, which means the island’s footprint now reaches into Central Africa.

There are also plans in place to ramp up the outreach to the Barbadian diaspora and leverage their skills, financial weight and good will in an attempt to bring them to bear on Barbados’ economic development.  (JC)


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