Foreign Affairs Minister, Senator Maxine McClean (L) and Ambassador Wang Ke shake hands following the signing of a Mutual Visa Abolition Agreement between Barbados and China. (C. Pitt/BGIS)
By Julie Carrington
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Barbados minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator Maxine McClean, has hailed the signing of a mutual visa abolition agreement with China as one that would allow diplomatic, governmental and cultural personnel to negotiate viable opportunities for partnership and investment.
McClean told the local and Chinese officials present at a signing ceremony that the signing of the agreement demonstrated the government’s recognition of “facilitating exchanges and enhancing cooperation through travel”.
She added: “I know that Ambassador Wang Ke has lobbied for a more expeditious system of processing visas to better able Chinese citizens to travel on ordinary passports. I concur that it is in Barbados’ interest to ensure that this happens, all the more so, as there is a boom in leisure travel by Chinese, with some 100 million tourists travelling abroad annually and [in fact] a mere 0.25 per cent or 250 000 persons within that market would revitalise and transform the tourism landscape.”
McClean acknowledged that for the last 37 years there was a rich bilateral relationship between Barbados and China and pointed out that the areas of cooperation between the two countries had been diverse, with some 21 government agreements on economic and technical agreements signed.
These agreements include: the signing of an economic and technical agreement and three banking agreements on accounting procedures to the tune of BDS $16 million; the construction of the Elsie Payne Complex, headquarters of the ministry of education, science, technology and innovation, the Garfield Sobers Sports Complex and the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
The foreign minister stated that government had made considerable progress in utilising the grant funds provided by China with the submission of 11 potential projects in areas such as agriculture, renewable energy and infrastructural development.
Additionally, McClean mentioned the refurbishment of the Gymnasium, the Barbados Water Authority Renewable Energy Project, the Hope Agricultural Project and the UWI Centre for Food Security and Entrepreneurship as projects selected for further assessment by technical teams from Beijing.
She said that Barbados had already started the process of fine-tuning its system for issuing visas for Chinese ordinary passport holders.
“Today is but one more step in what I anticipate will be a long and fruitful journey which ought to serve as a model of 21st century cooperation for countries of vastly different geographical sizes, populations and resource endowments,” McClean assured.