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Australia and Barbados enjoy friendly relations, based on various historical, sporting, social and political ties. From January 1994 to June 2004, Australia's diplomatic representation in the Caribbean was based in Bridgetown, Barbados. The Australian High Commissioner now resident in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, holds non-resident accreditation to Barbados. Barbados maintains formal diplomatic relations with Australia through a High Commissioner resident in Ottawa. Consistent with the Australian Government’s commitment to strengthening relations with the Caribbean, the Government formally established relations with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) through a Memorandum of Understanding signed by Mr Rudd, as Prime Minister in the margins of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting in Trinidad and Tobago on 29 November 2009. A centrepiece of the Government’s renewed ties with the region is a A$60 million Development Assistance Partnership.
Barbados is a founding member of CARICOM, the region's main political grouping, and is committed to regional integration. It hosts the headquarters of a number of regional bodies, including the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Caribbean Conference of Churches (CCC), and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO). Barbados has been at the forefront of efforts by CARICOM countries to create a Caribbean Single Market (CSM).
Maintaining good relations with the United States is an important foreign policy focus for Barbados, and relations with other regional and global players are strengthening.
In the international arena, Barbados is a member of the United Nations and its specialised agencies, the Organization of American States (OAS) and other agencies of the Inter-American system, the Commonwealth, the group of African, Caribbean and Pacific states (ACP) and the Non-Aligned Movement.
Barbados trades strongly with its CARICOM partners. Former Prime Minister Arthur was at the forefront of efforts to promote the Caribbean Single Market.
Along with Jamaica, Belize, Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, Barbados formally joined the Caribbean Single Market (CSM), on 1 January 2006. The CSM is intended to enhance export opportunities and attract foreign investment, by creating a single market among the participating member states. The main objectives are to achieve full use of labour (full employment) and full exploitation of the other factors of production (natural resources and capital), competitive production leading to greater variety and quantity of products and services to trade with other countries. This is intended to improve standards of living and work, and promote sustainable economic development.
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) led by David Thompson won the most recent election in Barbados in January 2008. This ended the Barbados Labour Party (BLP) government of Owen Arthur which had been re-elected in 2003 for a third consecutive term.
Following the death to illness of Prime Minister David Thompson, on 23 October 2010, Freundel Stuart, was sworn in to succeed him.
Barbados is a parliamentary democracy. The Head of State is Queen Elizabeth II, represented by the Governor-General. It has a bicameral parliament comprising a 30-member House of Assembly and a 21-member Senate. The Prime Minister is the leader of the party with the most members in the House of Assembly. House of Assembly members are directly elected to represent single-member constituencies for a term of five years. Senators are appointed by the Governor-General: 12 on the advice of the Prime Minister, two on the advice of the Leader of the Opposition and seven by the Governor-General acting alone.
The IMF forecast that Barbados' GDP would contract by 5.3 per cent in 2009. The financial sector is prominent in Barbados. It is seeking to position itself as a gateway to the region and to Latin America.
The Commonwealth provides one of the links between Australia and Barbados. Sport, predominantly cricket, is also a major link in the bilateral relationship.
Both Australia and Barbados are members of the United Nations and many of its specialist agencies. We cooperate on a range of multilateral issues, including candidatures for multilateral bodies.
Trade between Australia and Barbados is modest, with the balance of trade in Australia's favour. In 2009-10 Australian merchandise exports totalled A$2.4 million, whilst imports from Barbados totalled A$1.5million. Australia’s main exports to Barbados include medicamentsand alcoholic beverages. Australian imports from Barbados are primarily alcoholic beverages.
For the latest economic data, refer to the Barbados fact sheet [PDF] (http://www.dfat.gov.au/geo/fs/barb.pdf)
Possible opportunities exist for increased Australian trade and investment in Barbados. Food is a major import commodity for the country and opportunities exist in both the domestic and tourist markets. Processed food, beef, lamb, wine and dairy products are some of the sectors where opportunities might be pursued.
The tourism industry, in particular, provides a steady market for imports, much of which is currently filled by the United States. As most tourists are from Europe and the UK, there is already brand identification for Australian products. Australian exporters could also consider exporting to Barbados via distribution networks located elsewhere in the Caribbean. Australian know-how and expertise in hotel and resort development is another area with potential. The provision of telecommunications services could also represent an area of opportunity following earlier deregulation of the sector.
There may be potential for providing a fast, inter or intra-island ferry service. The possible introduction of Australian-built fast ferries elsewhere in the region would be a major step towards Australian boat builders gaining access to markets throughout the Caribbean.
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