Foreign Affairs Minister E.P Chet Greene says Antigua and Barbuda will continue to support the Commonwealth’s pledge to deepen intra-Commonwealth trade and investment as an important vehicle for realizing the Sustainable Development Goals.
Greene has met with trade counterparts from across the Commonwealth for the Commonwealth Trade Ministers Meeting (CTMM) held at the Commonwealth Secretariat in London.
The CTMM was convened under the topic “Delivering A Common Future: Co-Operation For Resilient, Inclusive, Green and Digital Economies” from 6th to 7th July 2023.
-He told those gathered that the Commonwealth is one of the largest markets for exports from Small Island Developing States with significant, under-tapped potential for increasing this trade. In this regard, Antigua and Barbuda re-affirms its strong support of the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda.
“Antigua and Barbuda further commend the Commonwealth’s work to assist SIDS, LDCs, and vulnerable economies to build the necessary capacity to effectively and competently engage in the multilateral trading system as well as to develop and expand their export capacity. We continue to call on our Commonwealth family to assist us in our call for a reform of the WTO dispute resolution system to ensure that decisions taken can be equitably enforced,” Greene said
He said Antigua and Barbuda further endorses the work of the Commonwealth Data Fellowship program.
“The capacity constraints in SIDS and other vulnerable states also affect our ability to collect and analyze key data to inform and drive innovation and trade. A system for consistent and quality data collection will be critical to effectively growing trade. We encourage those within our Commonwealth family with expertise and resources in this critical area of data collection to support the Commonwealth in delivering relevant capacity development programs as well as to continue to produce data dashboards and data analytic tools to guide and assist member states,” according to Greene
Furthermore, he said keeping abreast of developments in the digital economy and digital trade will be key factors in growing intra-Commonwealth trade. Antigua and Barbuda has made the digital economy an integral part of our development strategy.
“As home to the fourth landed campus of the University of the West Indies, we are developing the University’s first-ever School of Computing and Artificial Intelligence. This department will play an important part in developing important areas such as e-Governance and the digital economy. As such, we have already signaled our interest in serving as a champion country for Artificial Intelligence in The Commonwealth,” Greene added.
For SIDS, according to him, the ocean space has become an area of increased significance as we seek to sustainably develop our blue economies.
“Antigua and Barbuda extends appreciation to the Commonwealth for the central role it continues to play in developing the Centre for Oceanography and the Blue Economy at the University of the West Indies campus in Antigua. This regional center will provide the important research and technical work needed to identify and inform the opportunities that the Caribbean Ocean space provides for trade and investment”, he explained
Adding, “The Centre will provide the academic and technical foundation to identify new areas for export and strengthen existing areas. This will in turn support the diversification of our economies and reduce poverty. To this end, Antigua and Barbuda re-affirms its commitment as a Co-Champion of the Commonwealth Blue Economy Action Group and to supporting its work alongside fellow member states”
Antigua and Barbuda Greene explained, also expresses a strong commitment to gender parity and support for women in trade.
In the Caribbean, women represent the largest percentage of workers in the informal and service economies, according to him, who claimed that some 60% of all the workers in the tourism sector are women.
“Further, women are the largest owners of small businesses and sole trade establishments and, as the pandemic demonstrated, among the most vulnerable to negative trade shocks. Women are also, in many cases, the main or sole breadwinners in their households. Consequently, Antigua and Barbuda places on record our strong support for the provisions on gender and women in trade contained in the Commonwealth Report on Enhancing Intra-Commonwealth Trade and Investment,” Greene said
The meetings covered a wide range of topics and sought to highlight how the Commonwealth with its large and diverse family of nations, can more effectively collaborate to increase intra-Commonwealth trade and investment.
Ministers also engaged on matters about increasing food security and cooperation in the digital economy, explored opportunities to enhance trade competitiveness under the Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda, and reflected on the interconnections between climate change and developing sustainable blue, green, and digital economies.
The Commonwealth Connectivity Agenda is a platform for countries to exchange best practices and experiences to boost trade and investment and undertake domestic reform. Commonwealth leaders have committed to the vision of increasing Commonwealth trade to US$2 trillion by 2030.