Saturday, April 20, 2024

BEHIND THE HEADLINES: Using trade as a vehicle to drive economy


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A MONTH SHY of her 60th birthday, Baroness Patricia Scotland, the first woman to serve as Britain’s Attorney General since the job was created in 1316, is inching towards another first.

If the presidents and prime ministers of Commonwealth nations in Europe, the Caribbean, Africa, Asia/Pacific and the Indian sub-continent are given an opportunity by the English-speaking Caribbean to vote for her as the region’s candidate to be Commonwealth Secretary General, it seems a sure thing she would win an office never occupied by a woman.

And should that happen, the daughter of an Antiguan father and a Dominican mother, who sees herself as an advocate for small states, not simply in the Cairbbean but in the rest of the Commonwealth, has vowed to channel much of her enormous energy into using trade as a vehicle to drive economic development in the large, small and medium size nations that form the group.

“We have to create an engine, an opportunity for those three different size economies so they can work together and seek to enhance the trading links created in the Commonwealth,” Scotland told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY.

“There is an advantage for the countries working together. If we were able to enhance that, maybe even double it to between 20, 25, 30 per cent [up from ten to 15 per cent], the [economic] advantage for all of our countries would be considerable.”

Scotland, currently the British Prime Minister David Cameron’s unpaid special trade envoy to South Africa, is in Barbados ahead of the CARICOM Summit when she expects to meet with the region’s leaders. She said that the theory of expanded Commonwealth trade was one thing but the practical and reality of it was another – and clearly the more important.

“There is an opportunity for us in the Commonwealth to look to see if we want common [trading] terms, whether we can have common best practices,” she said.

“I would want us to look very concretely at the practical as opposed to just the theoretical when it comes to what we can do together to enhance the trading links. That’s a real emphasis for us now.”

Specifically, the black woman who is a member of one of Dominica’s leading families, and who met recently with America’s newest Attorney General, Loretta Lynch, to discuss security and safety issues in and out of the Caribbean and other Commonwealth regions, listed improving “the skill sets of our different countries”, undertaking “joint projects”, and greater use of the ever changing global reach of high technology to boost trade as key elements of comprehensive strategy as Secretary General.

“There is a massive platform of work that’s open to us, if we choose to mount a purposeful and targeted action campaign that hopefully would be spearheaded [partly] by the Secretary General and supported by the secretariat. It would do much to make a contribution in that sphere.

Scotland, who is facing Sir Ronald Sanders, a prominent consultant and newspaper columnist who was Antigua’s high commissioner in London, and Dr Bhoe Tewarie, Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Planning and Sustainable Development, in the race to be CARICOM’s nominee for the Commonwealth position, believes two-way trade is essential and that’s how she approaches her responsibilities as special envoy to South Africa.

“It’s a probono appointment and I dedicate my time, energy and attention to this. I am seeking through the contacts I have and the contacts through trade and industry in the UK to facilitate and support British trade to South Africa and South African trade the other way,” she pointed out.

“I believe it would strengthen South Africa’s ability to deliver to her people.

“I was very touched that both the minister of trade in South Africa and other government ministers there have highly complimented me for the work I have done for and with South Africa, as well as the energy and commitment I have shown in enhancing the opportunities for education and trade.”

Already, she has had talks with several Commonwealth heads of government and their top diplomats, especially in London, about the economic opportunities being pursued by Africa “to take advantage of Caribbean expertise” in order to accelerate the pace of expansion.

“Trinidad and Tobago has huge expertise in oil and gas. There is expertise coming from the Caribbean in terms of economic analysis.

There is a real opportunity for the Caribbean to work with Africa with some of that expertise so the countries can further develop their economies,” she declared.

And how about the response from African leaders? Scotland, a barrister who has practised law in England, Antigua and Dominica, said she was “touched” by the response and enthusiasm from African leaders and diplomats when they refer to her as their “sister” and a woman from the African diaspora.


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