August 26, 2005
The new frontier?

Partnerships have always been an integral part of foreign relations in St.Vincent and the Grenadines. Throughout our history we have fostered relationships with countries within our own Caribbean region and with countries further afield. Many of these partnerships have served us well as we have received many benefits and have gained lasting friendships. {{more}}

Developing countries tend to look to the developed countries, in our case the United Kingdom, the United States of America and Canada for aid, and most relationships are based on how much one can get from these countries. Perhaps because of our history, we have always looked at the United Kingdom as our major partner. But now that the United Kingdom is a member of the European Union, we are about to lose the major benefits we have come to expect from this partnership – protection for our goods (bananas) going into that country. On the other hand, our relationship with the United States has never been clearly established.

This has forced us to develop new relationships. Presently we are developing stronger ties with Cuba in the areas of health and education. We have turned to Venezuela for economic help in the present oil crisis and for help with the construction of the international airport. Is this the right time for us to look even further afield as we did 24 years ago when we courted Taiwan as a partner? This partnership has been beneficial to both parties and is proof that we do not need to remain within the realm of tradition when we seek to develop partnerships.

A few days ago, Mr. John Michell, Australian High Commissioner to Trinidad and Tobago with general reporting and consular responsibilities for St.Vincent and the Grenadines paid a courtesy call on Searchlight. According to Mr. Michell he was seeking to raise the level of awareness about Australia among Vincentians. Can this be the invitation to make this country our newest partner? There are many who would think that Australia is a world apart from St.Vincent and the Grenadines. But this same thought must have crossed the minds of many of our citizens when the bond with Taiwan was developed 24 years ago.

But what do we know about Australia? It is a Commonwealth country with a high level of education. In the past, our ties with this country have been in the field of education – Commonwealth Scholarships and the training of school administrators. Searchlight’s Managing Editor, Norma Keizer, was one of the beneficiaries of the latter training.

Mr. Michell admitted that our view of Australia is a positive one, but it is stereotypical and superficial. For example, when we think of Australia we think of cricket, sports and kangaroos but Australia is much more than these. At this juncture of our development, when we are prepared to break away from tradition and to think outside of the box, we perhaps need to look beyond these stereotypes and seek to forge a meaningful relationship with a Commonwealth country that is proud of its history and heritage.

A country that is a forerunner in developing cultural diversity and encourages immigrants to continue to embrace their own diversity. A country advanced in many technological fields. A country with a booming economy and above all, a country that is willing and ready to develop trading ties with St.Vincent and the Grenadines.