Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Calls for Greater Cooperation from Diplomatic Corps
NASSAU, Bahamas — Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs the Hon Brent Symonette has called for a greater involvement by members of the Diplomatic and the Honorary Consular Corps in the further development of The Bahamas. Mr Symonette was addressing the Honorary Consular Corps Annual Christmas Luncheon at the Lyford Cay Club, Thursday, December 17, 2009. The Deputy Prime Minister used the opportunity to give an overview of the year in foreign relations and outline plans for 2010.
“I wish to express not only my pleasure in being with you, but also my desire to seek more attention and involvement from you, able representatives of your governments here in The Bahamas, as we seek to overcome the challenges that keep emerging in the face of the existing crisis,” Mr Symonette said.
“I therefore call on you all to increase your contact and cooperation with my ministry and me in a dynamic, result-oriented, and sustained manner,” he said.
The diplomatic corps in The Bahamas increased by one this year, with the Sovereign Military Hospitaller Order of St John of Jerusalem of Rhodes and Malta joining the ranks. The Bahamas also welcomed the new Ambassador from the United States Her Excellency Nicole Avant.
Mr Symonette said the International Office for Migration (IOM) was granted legal authority this year to establish its presence in The Bahamas, “evidence of our continuing and deepened relationship on migration matters.”
Also, the appointment of Katherine Forbes-Smith as Consul General of The Bahamas in Atlanta – with responsibility for Alabama, Arkansas, Georgia, Kansas, Kentucky, Missouri, North Carolina, Oklahoma, South Carolina and Tennessee – took place this year.
Staff of the Minister of Foreign Affairs attended a number of high-level meetings on human rights, global financial crisis, climate change, food and energy security, the United Nations Millennium Goals, poverty, hunger, international terrorism and other related issues.
Bilaterally, the country hosted the Vice Premier of the State Council of the People’s Republic of China and the Official Goodwill Visit by Chairman Wu of the Standing Committee of the National People’s Congress, as well as the visit of the Foreign Minister of Haiti.
“These international and bilateral meetings also provide opportunities for exposure and training. Some of the training opportunities taken advantage of this year by my ministry were offered by China, Germany, Japan, the Caribbean Community and the World Trade Organisation,” Mr Symonette said.
He added that with the use of technology and applied manpower and procedures, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs expanded its passport services domestically and in some overseas missions, namely, Miami, New York and Atlanta.
“My ministry is continuing to overcome the challenges in implementing the intricate system in Nassau, Freeport and in other Family Island centres. The Bahamian public has witnessed major improvements in the delivery of their documents,” he said.
In the area of free trade, Mr Symonette said The Bahamas is continuing efforts “in earnest” to become a full member of the World Trade Organisation.
Additionally, the first round of negotiations to conclude the new CARICOM/Canada Trade and Development Agreement were held in Barbados in November, 2009.
With regard to the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Commission, he said The Bahamas’ services offer has been accepted by the Commission. This means that the country can move to the next stage of implementation of the EPA.
In the area of financial services, The Bahamas has signed 10 Tax Information Exchange Agreements (TIEA) in pursuit of the Government’s commitment to have the country removed from the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) “grey list” of countries deemed not to be fully compliant with international standards, Mr Symonette said.
Agreements have been signed with Argentina, Belgium, China, France, Monaco, the Netherlands, New Zealand, San Marino, the United Kingdom and the United States.
“We are pleased that six of these countries are OECD members and that we are the first country to sign an agreement of this type with China,” he said.
“The Bahamas is presently negotiating TIEAs with other countries and will have signed her quota of these agreements by the first quarter of 2010.”
The full text of the Deputy Prime Minister’s Remarks may be downloaded here.