BASSETERRE – The Government of St Kitts and Nevis is preparing to tap further into diplomatic channels as it engages the Government of Canada to restore visa-free access for nationals traveling to the North American country.
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Honourable Mark Brantley, said that while no formal discussions were held with Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau during his recent family vacation in Nevis, there is a plan to “engage Canada formally.”
“We have unfortunately been delayed in that engagement because of the elections in Canada,” Minister Brantley said, referring to the October 2015 Federal Elections which saw a change in government. However, the foreign affairs minister indicated that he has since met on the side-lines with his Canadian counterpart in Malta and had discussions on several matters.
St Kitts and Nevis also has a formal presence in Canada in the person of High Commissioner, Her Excellency Shirley Skerritt. Minister Brantley said last year’s opening of the High Commission in Ottawa, Canada’s capital city, highlighted the government’s commitment to strengthen the existing relationship and springboard discussions on the restoration of visa-free travel.
“I can’t make promises but I feel optimistic that we will overcome this particular hurdle,” the foreign minister stated. “I think that it is important to restore it because it is important for our reputation; it is important for our people to be able to travel freely to as many countries as possible.”
St Kitts and Nevis enjoys good standing in many international circles and according to the International Monetary Fund (IMF) the twin-island federation is one of the leaders in economic performance and projected growth in the Caribbean and Central America.
Senior diplomat Brantley said that it is key, to build on St Kitts and Nevis’ positive reputation by seeking out new opportunities to establish diplomatic ties and also increase the federation’s visa-free access to more countries.
“We are very close to concluding visa waiver with Russia,” he said. “We are pursuing that with Ukraine, with Indonesia. We, just last year, got visa free access to Brazil, [and] we are pursuing it with South Africa.”
Authorities are also working with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) to have representation in South Africa. Efforts are being pursued to establish diplomatic relations with Senegal. Minister Brantley added that Nigeria is an important “centre of power” on the African continent and that continued engagement at the honorary consul level will continue. Establishing honorary consuls in Ghana and Ethiopia are also being considered, he said. (SKNIS)