In the face of ongoing economic challenges, one of this country’s resident diplomats is warning Barbados that now is not the time to be closing the door to foreign trade.
Argentina’s recently appointed envoy Gustavo Martinez Pandiani issued the caution against the backdrop of domestic concerns about the island’s high food and general import bill, which is said to be contributing to a drain on the island’s foreign reserves.
However, while pointing out that Barbados was not the only country experiencing severe economic woes Martinez contends that a move to restrict global trade could otherwise prove to detrimental for the island.
“We are concerned about our own economic situation and the world economic situation. I don’t think it is a problem of the Barbados economy, I think it is a problem of the world economy,” the Argentine envoy said, while stressing that economies the world over were under significant strain and stress.
“Many countries are trying to put obstacles to foreign trade and international trade [but] we believe that is incorrect. We have to go the other way around. We have to share more markets, better compete with each other and in that sense Argentina wants to have a very good relationship with the Caribbean,” he said.
His comments come against the backdrop of recent complaints by local farmers about the high level of foreign imports.
In answer to those complaints, Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick revealed earlier this month that stricter provisions were coming under the Agricultural Protection and Livestock Act in a bid to protect domestic food production from foreign food imports, even while acknowledging that World Trade Organization rules currently prohibit countries from refusing “willy-nilly” to grant import licences.
“The way we may have to manage that going forward would be to link it to the recent Agricultural Protection and Livestock Act, where once you are selling an item you have to certify that sale with a receipt,” Estwick explained.
“For persons who are importing, they have to have the Customs document with them and then we will have to create a provision where that is not permissible to put on the system,” he added.
However, while acknowledging that any trade restrictions would pose a risk to his country’s major export industry, Martinez assured that Argentina’s interest in Barbados goes much further than promoting trade and investment.
“We are not here only to sell our beef. We are here because we share some visions of human rights, community development, protecting our planet,” he said, adding that “beside the container things, we want to have a container of ideas with you”.
In this regard, he revealed that Argentina would support the international candidacy of Senator Kerryann Ifill, who is president of this island’s Upper Chamber, for a seat on the United Nations Committee on Disabilities.