The new junior minister for investment in Mia Mottley’s Cabinet has pledged that Barbados will strategically and aggressively go after foreign investment on his debut in the Senate on Wednesday.

As the Upper Chamber took up the African Export-Import Bank Bill after it passed in the House of Assembly, Minister in the Ministry of Economic Affairs and Investment Senator Chad Blackman told Senate colleagues the bill would unlock the potential of two regions looking to trade with each other.

The relationship with the Cairo-based bank would be a catalyst to help Barbados build its export portfolio, he said in his maiden speech.

The Mottley administration’s first effort would be to research partners in the nation’s development in collaboration with state promotion agencies Export Barbados and Invest Barbados.

His comments came during the debate on the bill that was described earlier by Leader of Government Business Senator Lisa Cummins as a headquarters agreement which seeks to put the African banking partner on a level footing with other locally-based diplomatic interests with regard to the benefits and courtesies extended for being domiciled here.

The newly appointed senator described the bill as a historic moment that could uncover tremendous potential to facilitate greater trading and deepen relations between Africa and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). He also saw the legislation helping to unlock funding options for Barbados and the region which currently have only limited access to concessional financing.

Senator Blackman, who served as an international civil servant and diplomat specialising in trade, labour and youth development issues until his elevation last month to the Cabinet and Senate, praised the administration’s foresight in establishing diplomatic “boots on the ground” with missions in Ghana and Kenya.

He told the Senate: “In order for the region to grow and in order for Barbados to grow, exports and export-led growth are going to be key. Job creation for our people, our young people, our creatives, our tech sectors, our scientific sectors, is of major importance. But in order for those things to become reality, you need the finance. Therefore, we must now get our entrepreneurial class, our young people– whether they are black, white, or Indian – to be thinking and looking across the landscape: ‘Where are the global opportunities for business and services?’ We must not have them thinking of Barbados alone or CARICOM but also Africa.”

For these benefits to be fully explored, Senator Blackman suggested the two regions needed to create a groundswell of interest.

“There has to be demand on the ground and not just Barbados, but using our location as a logistics hub there should be a strong African Union and CARICOM promotion of each other’s jurisdictions in business and tourism. That is really when you can unlock the trade potential,” he said.

Senator Blackman said the discussion on the bill was coming at an important juncture in Caribbean history and was a “true manifestation” of south-to-south cooperation being debated in the Commonwealth’s third oldest Parliament. This, he suggested, brought history to a full circle, one year before the 400th anniversary of Britain’s colonisation of Barbados.

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