Prime Minister Freundel Stuart (centre) is pictured with the Barbados delegation to the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community yesterday in Castries, along with Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean and Barbados’ Ambassador to CARICOM, Robert Morris.

Also pictured are from left to right (back row) Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Charles Burnett; Permanent Secretary, Prime Minister’s Office, Sonja Welch; Chief Resarch Officer, Paula Byer and Permanent Secretary Ministry of Foreign Trade Bentley Gibbs. (A. Gaskin/BGIS)

CARICOM leaders are moving to better coordinate their foreign policies, and Barbados has already taken a step in this direction.

This was announced by Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, as he gave an update to members of the media on some of the issues regional leaders discussed late yesterday in their closed-door session, as the 33rd Regular Meeting of the Conference of Heads of Government concluded in Castries.

Mr. Stuart disclosed that he had commissioned the Ministry of Foreign Affairs to re-examine Barbados’ foreign policy to see whether this country was making the most of the opportunities available to it, and to determine if "we are in the right places at this time and make sure that we make the appropriate adjustments".

He, however, made it clear that Barbados would not be abandoning its traditional friends, but rather, making sure that this country had a presence "where it matters, so that we can benefit from the more propitious changes that are taking place in other theatres of the world".

"Barbados, of course, has started out on the journey in that regard. We have a diplomatic presence in the Peoples Republic of China. Barbados has a one-China policy and that is not about to change. We have a diplomatic presence in a country like Brazil. But, there are others at which we are looking," Mr. Stuart hinted.

"The world has changed quite a lot. As I have said, volcanic changes have taken place in the North Atlantic world, and a new collection of emerging economies is making its presence felt on the global economic scene.?? We hear of Brazil, Russia, India and China and, of course, South Africa. And, the question is can we continue to maintain the same diplomatic profile for which we have become so well known over the years; or do we make the adjustments to these new and emerging economies," he queried.

Mr. Stuart added that there was a "palpable consensus" among regional leaders that foreign policy matters had to be taken "a little more seriously" and, where necessary, diplomatic representation should be shared in some of the more important capitals of the world. "This is nothing new. After independence you may recall Barbados and Guyana shared diplomatic relations in London…and, therefore, we have to get back to that kind of support," he noted.

In addition, Prime Minister Stuart said that instead of looking to the more developed countries for answers to some of the problems that are affecting the region, CARICOM states needed to come up with their own solutions.

"Clearly, countries in the North Atlantic have not been able to find answers to the fundamental questions of their economic plight, and a country like Britain, of course, has … gone into double dip recession. A country like the United States of America is not growing at nearly the pace that President Obama and his advisors had contemplated. And, in the more traditional western European countries, like Spain, you have [a] 25 per cent unemployment rate generally, but among school leavers and university graduates, a 50 per cent unemployment rate; [that means] one in every two persons out of high school and university is unemployed.

"Portugal is going through a deep crisis as well. In fact, whereas in days of yore, people would be leaving a country like Angola to go to Portugal because life was better in Portugal, the reverse is now happening, and people are leaving Portugal to go to Angola because life is better in Angola. And, of course, a lot of countries, former colonial powers like Spain, are witnessing an exodus to former colonies in Latin America.

"So, they have not been able to answer the fundamental questions that require answering if they are going to turn the economic corner. We, therefore, have to come up with answers to our specific questions," Mr. Stuart reasoned.

The next meeting of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community is scheduled for Haiti.


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