Foreign Policy in Barbados and CARICOM
Submitted by Kemar J. D Stuart, President of The Young Democrats
Foreign Policy discussion has not been a strong pillar of discussion within the political environment as it is perceived the voting public may not be too keen on engaging political parties on their foreign policy positions during campaigning or debate time. However after last May 24th 2018 general election an ethos of international relations came into the limelight where the Barbados Prime Minister’s engagement of the African Continent has brought an interest to understanding foreign affairs and the reason for frequent travel to foreign nations.
Through a CARICOM initiative a joint diplomatic mission in Kenya was opened in December 2019 on behalf of member countries of CARICOM governments. This diplomatic mission is the first of its kind on the African continent for Barbados and other CARICOM member states. Such an initiative under the Treaty of Chaguaramas, would be undertaken by the Council for Foreign and Community relations however picturesque discussion of information surrounding impending trade agreements would be more substantial.
While Barbados and individual CARICOM states may have individual nation to nation relationships with African countries there is currently no trade agreement between CARICOM and any African countries. What exist are bilateral arrangements and double taxation agreements which are limited in exploration i.e. Barbados and its planned High Commission to Ghana, the removal of Visa requirements for nationals from eight African countries. Citizens must differentiate the difference between collective CARICOM Foreign policy and Barbados individual Foreign policy. Given reluctance to debate a clear Foreign Policy position before committing Barbados to such, the Barbadian public learns of its Foreign policy position in overseas press conferences at the signing of unknown agreements by the country’s Foreign Minister.
The future of Caribbean diplomats must not only be in a position to exercise their functions as representatives of their Governments but should also have a thorough understanding of trade, finance, investment and technology in order to promote exports, tourism and investment including the opening up of traditional and emerging markets for commerce and business . Given that the Cotonou Agreement between the European Union (EU) and African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of states is coming to an end the thrust of foreign policy must be deeper than cultural links and the commonality of being ‘black’. Barbados and the Caribbean currently transmit more cultural impulses to African than it receives from the Continent so the premise of negotiatons must be to derive benefits for the Caribbean in the industries listed above. 2020 is an interesting year to hear the policy position of CARICOM and Africa and the policy position of Barbados and Africa at a bilateral level within an economic development space.
More than 1/3 of West Indians live abroad, as a foreign policy position Barbados and CARICOM states should consider CARIcities within metropolitan states. CARIcities involves establishing collective commercial facilities, legal advisory services, West Indian Banks, outreach and research centers from the UWI and other institutions of collective representation of West Indian ideals. However, we gatherin 2020.