Prime Minister Ralph Gonsalves will leave St. Vincent and the Grenadines on Aug. 3 for an official visit to Japan, at the invitation of Shinzo Abe, his counterpart in that Asian nation.
Gonsalves will arrive in Tokyo on Aug. 5 and remain in Japan until Aug. 9, during which time he will meet with Abe to discuss bilateral matters as well as matters related to CARICOM and the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States.
He will be accompanied by his wife, Eloise Gonsalves, and the Director General of Finance and Planning, Edmond Jackson.
“Now, I just want to remind everybody. Japan is the third largest economy in the world. I just want to mention that and this is St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves told a press conference on Monday, when he announced the visit.
He said that SVG is one of the more than 190 countries that are members of the United Nations and has a very small economy.
“But yet, I am being hosted by the prime minister of the third largest economy in the world. All that is part and parcel of building not just the profile, but to make sure that we develop our CARICOM-OECS relations stronger with Japan and our bilateral relations.”
Gonsalves said that Kingstown and Tokyo have joint programmes that involve “different dimensions”.
“There are things which Japan advises us upon, like, for instance, geothermal. There are things in which we are involved with Japan, like fisheries, including the fisheries project.
“There is the question of the sustainable use of marine resources, which is a euphemism which is often attached to matters concerning whaling.”
Japan plays an influential role in the International Whaling Commission, which meets in Brazil in 2018.
Gonsalves has floated the idea of banning the killing of orcas in SVG.
Also, Bequia whalers are allowed a catch of four humpback whales annually as part of their centuries-old indigenous whaling culture.
Gonsalves further told the press conference: “Then there are investment matters which I want to talk about. I am meeting the minister involved in the economy, investment matters, the issue of goods which we have to trade with Japan.”
He, however, said that the problem often with those goods is transportation.
“But there are services which we can talk about, including tourism services,” he said, but noted that the Japanese tend to make their leisure trips to Asia, Europe, and the United States
“… but we have to find ways all the time to be talking about that and see how matters could be dealt with, and, very importantly, to see if we can get Japanese investors interested also in St. Vincent and the Grenadines,” Gonsalves said.
He noted the programme of education exchanges in which Japanese come to St. Vincent as teachers and as well provide certain expert skills and service.
“And we have two persons from St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are there who are teaching English or who will be working in some other area. In fact, they are going to be invited to the — I gave the OK for them to be invited to the dinner which we are having.”
Gonsalves said there are CARICOM matters he wants to speak to Japan about.
He said that after the programme for the Japan trip was finalised, he spoke to the CARICOM Secretary General, Irwin LaRocque, to send a brief for some urgent matters they have to work on.
He has also spoken to the OECS secretariat, Gonsalves said.
“So I am not only doing bilateral stuff. I am seeing how we fit in with the OECS.”
Gonsalves said there are also matters he want to talk to the Japanese about to “have a better understanding about certain things which are taking place in Asia.
“And I want to talk to them about Security Council reform,” said Gonsalves, whose government will seek, next year, to have SVG elected to one of the non-permanent seats on the UN Security Council.
“So there is a wider range of issues. I know the cynics will be [saying], ‘What is Ralph wanting to do? Is this an ego thing? He’s talking about these kinds of subjects.’
“Well, St. Vincent and the Grenadines and the Caribbean, we were the first quote-unquote experiment in globalisation and you know, we have to think nationally, we have to think regionally, we have to think global.
“There are persons who want to restrict the imagination of our young people. I am not in that group. Those who want to be parochial can be parochial but I know that for us to survive and thrive in this world, we have to bring people here to sell them our goods and services and we have to take our goods and services there. That’s how we are going to make our living and we have to make that living, as I have said, in a post-colonial world, meaning a world without preferences,” Gonsalves said.