In his opening remarks, the Honourable Minister welcomed the audience and congratulated the Permanent Secretary, Mr. Andreas Wickham for organizing his first consultation.
The Minister commended the overseas missions for their work despite the many institutional challenges confronting St. Vincent and the Grenadines. He outlined the successes achieved in various programmes and policies through the work of the missions. The missions have provided assistance in the areas of ;- - culture, agriculture, tourism, foreign investors, education and health institutions and bringing together Vincentians in the Diaspora and to provide updates on the current events in St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
In his speech he highlighted a number of areas of accomplishment with special emphasis on the role of the overseas representation.Highlighted among these are:
- Their instrumentality in mobilizing resources to provided assistance to the various economic sectors of SVG, as well as engaging the nationals in the Diasporas.
- Emblazoning the name of SVG around the world, thereby giving it international recognition and respect.The recent bid for SVG’s membership in the UN Security Council for the year 2020 is testimony of this fact.
- Exercising the powerful voice of SVG and the region for reform of the UN Security Council; and speaking out forcefully on major issues of international concern such as climate change, energy, crime and special treatment for SIDS and small economies.
- Representing 120 developing countries in the special UN Conference on the economic and financial crisis as coordinator.
- Removing the name of SVG from the OECD grey list by negotiating and signing Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEAs) with several countries.
The Minister further informed that in keeping with the foreign policy thrust of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, the Government has maintained very strong and cordial relationship with old traditional allies such as the UK, USA, Canada, Japan and Taiwan, and have forged stronger ties with friendly countries such as Brazil, Spain, Portugal, Mexico, Venezuela, Cuba, Turkey, Australia, Libya, Iran and Malaysia.
It is through the foreign policy initiative, he stated that SVG has seen the benefits of scholarships, financial and technical assistance for Low income Homes, cheaper energy and lower price LPG; the Rabacca Bridge, Cross Country Road, the YES Program, the Library Complex, Vision Now Programme, the modern diagnostic centre and the construction of the Argyle International Airport. He made mention of efforts by the Overseas missions and Consulates and members of the Diaspora in helping Vincentiansat home in need of educational and medical assistance.
He further pointed out that due to the lack of resources to establish diplomatic missions in various capitals of the world, honorary consuls have been appointed to serve the country’s interests, and to them the country owes a debt of gratitude.
In the Hon. Minister’s overview of the international trade policy of SVG, he stated that SVG is a member of the WTO and participates in all conferences to conclude the Doha Development Round of Negotiations.
Minister Straker also gave an update on the status of implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union, and outlined the actions that have already been undertaken by the Department of Trade following the development and approval of an EPA implementation roadmap. He indicated that an EPA Coordinator has been appointed, and a number of sensitization workshops have been conducted and others scheduled for stakeholders in various sectors of the economy. Nonetheless, he stated that a number of issues are still outstanding.However, he noted that recent developments at the CARICOM Secretariat to operationalise the EPA Implementation Units will give new impetus for completion of these outstanding issues.
In his update, the Foreign Minister briefed the audience with the status of negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement of which SVG is involved.At present the agreement is in its draft stages and several meetings have been held at the CARICOM level.In view of the continued negotiations, it is expected that officials from the Office of Trade Negotiations will visit SVG to conduct a national consultation in July 2010.