It’s now official. Antigua and Barbuda has reciprocated a waiver of visa requirements for businessmen, tourists, and diplomats between the twin island nation and Colombia. This was one of the highpoints of the visit by a 3-member delegation led by Hon E.P Chet Greene Minister of Foreign Affairs, International Trade and Immigration. The team spent the last three days in Bogota Colombia conducting a series of high level bi-lateral negotiations to improve trade, tourism and transportation links between the two countries.
The visit to the South American Country which is Latin America’s fourth largest economy is extremely important. Colombia is a major exporter of agriproducts, for example they are the world’s second largest exporter of cut flowers with a manufacturing sector that makes up nearly 12% of its exports, and one that is growing at a rate of over 10% a year.
With an overall forecasted +3% growth in GDP for 2018, Colombia has one of the fastest growing economies in the hemisphere, and with a bourgeoning middle class presents the ideal trading and tourism partner for Antigua and Barbuda. With Antigua and Barbuda recently rated by ECLAC with the fastest CARICOM GDP growth rate of 4.2%, the visit is a part of the Government’s strategic initiatives to strengthen South-South partnerships in trade and tourism in order to enhance the country’s competitiveness.
The delegation which included CEO of the Antigua and Barbuda Tourism Authority Colin C. James along with Mrs. Maria Britto Bettini special advisor to the Minister, held several meetings with Colombia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs His Excellency Carlos Holmes Trujillo, PROCOLOMBIA the entity that promotes international tourism, foreign investment and exports in Colombia and The Colombian Civil Aviation Authority “Aeronautica Civil” which has responsibility for all air transportation matters.
Presentations were made by Team Antigua and Barbuda on the areas of Trade protocols, Tourism Infrastructure as well as an overview of the country’s modern Airport, and Sea Port facilities. Each agency welcomed the visit and embraced a series of initiatives to open doors and to strengthen cooperation, trade and travel between both nations.
The results of these meetings included an agreement on the final draft of the Air Services Agreement that is a precursor for the establishment of both charter and scheduled flights between the two countries.
Other initiatives agreed included an exchange program with potential scholarships for students in both English and Spanish at Colombia’s Institute of Aeronautica Civil at El Dorado International Airport. This facility with its unique flight simulators, provides training for up to 500 students each year in all aspects of air traffic control, security, search and rescue and general airport operations.
Minister Greene underscored that the realization of this Trade and Tourism mission with the announcement of the permanent removal of restrictive visa requirements, is a critical turning point in the relationship between Antigua and Barbuda and Colombia. Minister Greene commented, “ The vision of strengthening the cooperation and trade between our two countries will reposition our private sector companies, our airlines and tourism entities to fully realize the opportunities available to them to our mutual advantage”
A presentation from Minister Greene, to his Colombian counterpart included a hand painted champagne glass depicting Antigua and Barbuda’s National symbols and samples of our award winning Susie’s Hot Sauce and English Harbour rum. Incidentally these are two signature products that would stand to benefit from the anticipated increase in trade with Colombia that’s expected in the near future.
In addition to the waiver of visa requirements the true highlight of the mission was the admiration and enthusiasm of the Colombian hosts for the many positive attributes of the destination and their willingness to take advantage of the trade opportunities and business prospects available in Antigua and Barbuda.