Barbados is preparing to start a new round of negotiations on its maritime boundaries.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Maxine McClean made the disclosure in the Senate this morning while leading off debate on the 2015-2016 Estimates of Revenue and Expenditure.
McClean, who is leader of Government Business in that Chamber, revealed that a team was now being put together to begin talks with such neighbouring countries as St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
“We have just reassembled or are in the process of reassembling our negotiating team. You would probably remember we would have had negotiations to negotiate our maritime boundaries. We are now working to do so with St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines etcetera, to ensure that we are able to properly co-ordinate our efforts and also to properly delineate our boundaries,” the Minister added.
She also noted that an intra and inter-ministry approach was now being adopted by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade towards attracting investment and business to this country.
McClean said that when it came to double taxation treaties, for example, agencies such as Invest Barbados and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) were all part of a team that negotiates these agreements.
McClean said there is an ongoing effort for small business people to make contact and supply products and source materials overseas.
The Minister told the Chamber that a week and a half ago, a businessman of Chinese ethnicity from Thailand had asked her to organize, with the mission in London, a working visit with 30 Chinese business persons.
“He indicated that these young business people together control over 100 businesses. So even if we were to simply get them to use our double taxation agreement with China, what that is able to do, is to open up and build on something that we already have done in China through Invest Barbados and that is to create awareness and to show business people how in fact they can use Barbados as an international business jurisdiction,’ she stated.
Regarding the mission in Canada, McClean said personnel there have been actively pursuing additional double taxation opportunities.
She said this relationship has allowed Barbados to become Canada’s third largest beneficiary for double taxation investment and Canada being Barbados’ main source market in this area.
The Leader of Government Business also informed the Senate that Barbados was now penetrating the non-traditional areas of employment opportunities overseas, particularly for young professionals.
“We recognize that there is a significant market, especially in western Canada for young professionals, etcetera, and that is an area in which we are looking at opportunities because those opportunities allow young Barbadians to cut their teeth, so to speak, in some interesting areas of employment,” disclosed McClean.
She revealed that the Consul General has had discussions with several persons in cities on the west coast.
She noted that this island had a reasonably-sized community of Barbadians in places such as Edmonton, Alberta and Calgary and were representing this country in a way in which they can also partner with Barbadians at home to grow business.
At the level of people-to-people engagement, McClean said Barbados continues to involve its diaspora in a very significant way.
“Coming out of our biennial diaspora conference, young Barbadians have been put in touch with their counterparts, whether it’s in the US, in Canada, the UK, etcetera, and are working on opportunities to engage in businesses and so on. That I think is very important. Only on Saturday morning, I had the opportunity to meet two Barbadians who were at home for a funeral. But one of them is…responsible for the importation of a number of products into New York.”
She said he was speaking of the need to access more products from Barbados. McClean recognized this as a continuing opportunity for local products in the North American market.
The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said she has impressed on her staff that there must be a close collaboration and co-ordination between ministries in promoting Barbados abroad and in encouraging foreign direct investment here.
Drawing reference to discussions she held this morning with the German Ambassador to Barbados on climate change, McClean boasted that Barbados had created a reputation as a leader in the climate change fight.
She noted that the Global Environment Fund (GEF) has been able to finance a number initiatives in Barbados, adding that the island must now move from advocacy to action.
“So when we talk about negotiating with Germany to support us in terms of accessing resources in the Green Climate Fund, when we talk about drawing down on grants from GEF for example, when we talk about engaging with our bilateral partners such as China to access grants to address the reduction of our fuel bill through the use of renewable energy and putting in place systems on Government buildings, all of these things must be seen as tied into our efforts to engage the world in understanding that we not only have to talk about problems, but that we solve them; and that critical for Barbados (is) that we receive and identify clear benefits.”
Senator McClean also noted that Canada has asked for an extension of time in concluding the Canada-CARICOM negotiations on a free trade agreement for a number of additional years.
She said that just last week, Caribbean officials held a special meeting of COTED – the Council for Trade and Economic Development, an arm of CARICOM.
“It has been a long time climb. What we are seeking to do there is to negotiate among 14 of us essentially with Canada a free trade agreement. We have gone beyond what was the initial time frames because, of course, when we are trying to balance the contending concerns, it takes some time,” McClean noted.
She said part of what has unfolded recently is that there has been a proposal by the Canadians through the World Trade Organization (WTO) to extend the CARIBCAN arrangements which would allow Barbados and the rest of the region to continue to have duty free access for a number of years.
She said that will require Caribbean representatives in Geneva over the next couple days at the meeting coming up, to engage in lobbying to get other World Trade Organization (WTO) member countries to understand the critical importance of that for nations within CARICOM.
The Cabinet Minister disclosed that the Americans have also signaled a request to extend the Caribbean Basin Security Initiative (CBSI). The CBSI is one pillar of a U.S. security strategy focused on citizen safety throughout the hemisphere.
CBSI brings all members of the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic together to jointly collaborate on regional security with the United States as a partner. The United States is making a significant contribution to CBSI, and has committed $263 million in funding since 2010.