Saint Lucia’s Minister for External Relations, the Honorable Alva Baptiste through his diplomatic and negotiating skills at recent foreign relations engagements, has been establishing alliances to assist in the development of our tiny island nation. First, on the basis of strategic discussions with the Australian government, Minister Baptiste was invited to Australia in an effort to strengthen bilateral co-operation between the two countries. As a result, from June 16-20th 2012 Hon. Alva Baptiste was the guest of the Australian government, during that time he engaged in bilateral discussions on issues pertinent to the development of Small Island Developing States(SIDS) viz.;research of tropical diseases, sustainable development, climate change and human resource development.
Again on the strength of his discussions and negotiations with the Brazilian Foreign Minister, in Geneva and Suriname, Minister Baptiste was invited by his counterpart in Brazil to strengthen existing areas of co-operation as well as explore new areas of trade and development. This historical mission has the distinction of being the first visit made by a Foreign Minister from the Region to hold bilateral negotiations. Consequently, Minister Baptiste who returned home over the weekend just concluded a series of talks with various ministries and ministers in Brazil.
Central areas to Saint Lucia’s economic growth were discussed. Of utmost importance were deliberations with representatives from the Brazilian Enterprise for Agricultural Research (EMBRAPA) who have committed to engaging in technical co-operation with Saint Lucia. It must also be mentioned that this co-operation will be achieved through a technical mission scheduled to arrive on island as early as next month.
Owing to the fact that both countries rely heavily on the tourism industry, the Minister met with representatives of the Brazilian Ministry of Tourism to discuss areas that would facilitate the free movement of citizens between the two countries. Most importantly the possible tourist visa waiver for Saint Lucian nationals desirous of visiting Brazil was addressed. In addition, the possibility of Brazilian tourism students undertaking practical training in Saint Lucia was mentioned.
Given the current statistics on HIV/AIDS in the Region, the Minister met with representatives of the Brazilian Ministry of Health AIDS program. The shipment of antiretroviral drugs to the Region was a central point, as currently, delays in shipment were being experienced.
Other bilateral meetings during the trip focused on the youth development, food security, bio-diversity and conservation, Fisheries and Aquaculture and the need to increase trade between the two countries.
Since becoming Saint Lucia’s External Affairs Minister, Hon. Baptiste has quickly established himself as a leader at the regional and international levels. Within less than three (3) months as Saint Lucia’s Minister for External Affairs, he assumed the position of President of the Council of Ministers of the African Caribbean and Pacific group of states. In this position he has provided solid leadership to the ACP and presided over the 95th Session of the council of ministers of the ACP and lead chair in the ACP-EU joint council of Ministers meeting in Vanuatu between June 11-15, 2012.
At the regional level Minister Baptiste has chaired a number of meetings at the CARICOM level even before formally assuming the chairmanship of the Community Council of the CARICOM. He formally assumed the chairmanship at the commencement of July 2012.