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EDITORIAL: Expanding diplomatic contacts


EDITORIAL

EDITORIAL: Expanding diplomatic contacts

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AT A TIME when Barbados and the region seek to generate economic growth and to foster economic links which can be developed to the benefit of the region’s people, Dr Chelston Brathwaite, this country’s Ambassador to China, is suggesting that we place greater emphasis on economic diplomacy and shift some focus to the countries in the far eastern region where economies are the fastest growing.

Brathwaite, a former director general of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture, is saying we should diversify our diplomatic, economic and other foreign relations by boosting our contact with China, India and other countries in that region of the world.

It is not difficult to understand where the former distinguished and highly experienced technocrat, and now ambassador is coming from; for this country’s first Prime Minister made it clear that this country “should be friends of all and satellites of none” in a statement which declares that our national interests should command keenest priority.

Traditionally we have had strong ties with the West, mostly arising out of our long history of colonial dependence. But on Independence we gained the ability to forge our own deliberate policies of alignment, and perhaps because of habit or praxis we have linked arms, so to speak, with Western states.

But this world is changing, and no one can deny the massive economic powerhouse that China has become, with Japan, India and Singapore also demonstrating they, too, have found the key to maintaining economic growth in the face of difficulties.

As an example, China’s growth is given as 6.7 per cent; while India’s economy grew by 7.6 per cent in 2015 to 2016. Nor can we deny that China, in particular, has declared a willingness to assist lesser developed countries in their quest for national prosperity.

We have had established diplomatic relations with Beijing since 1977, and the Chinese have assisted us in building and developing the Gymnasium of the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and are now providing major financial assistance with the Sam Lord’s Wyndham Hotel project in St Philip.

So the Ambassador’s point is well taken. We cannot allow tradition to prevent us from recognising that economic developments in far eastern economies make them fertile hunting grounds to speak for our economic and diplomatic outreach. The entire world, and not half of the world only, ought to be our catchment area for the services which we offer in international business, as well as for those goods which we can export in any niche markets which we might identify.

These views are also consistent with the developing principles of economic democracy in which it must move beyond the usual consular relations and include, inter alia, the transfer of technology, poverty reduction and expansion of educational opportunities.

The Ambassador’s views should receive wide support, for there is much that can be gained by us from these linkages. Many of our young people are now being exposed to the Chinese language and culture and to computer software engineering through the links established at the Cave Hill Campus, and many of our students now study in China. 

What is more, the Queen Elizabeth Hospital, a critical resource, is benefiting from the vital transfer of technology and medical expertise as well as the donation of key pieces of medical equipment. 

We applaud this approach to diplomacy, and commend the ambassador for his refreshing opinions on this manner of expanding our diplomatic outposts for the sharper and better promotion of our national, cultural and economic interests.

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