FA14 (FA 13a)

10 February 1998


I have today announced the appointment of Mr Paul Smith as Australian High Commissioner to Barbados. Mr Smith will also be accredited to a number of other countries in the region. He will replace Mr Robert Whitty who has been High Commissioner since February 1994.

Australian interests in the Caribbean centre mainly upon Caricom (Caribbean Community), the economic and political group comprising the region's 13 English-speaking members of the Commonwealth with the addition of Suriname, the first non-Commonwealth member, which acceded to Caricom in 1995 and Haiti, which joined in 1997. In addition to Australia's links with the region through the Commonwealth, cricket, of course, continues to be a strong bond.

Caricom countries share a number of characteristics with Australia, including a common language, similarity of law, democratic traditions and business practices, political stability, and a common sporting ethos. These provide a basis for mutual goodwill and enable valuable cooperation in a number of areas. The most productive cooperation occurs in the United Nations and other multilateral institutions, where, because of its voting strength, Caricom counts as a significant lobby group.

While Australia's trade with the Caribbean region is relatively small, worthwhile opportunities exist for Australia, for example, in sales of fast ferries and investment in minerals exploration and development. Future prospects for Australian trade and investment may also improve as the region responds to the challenges of trade liberalisation.

From Bridgetown, Mr Smith will also lead Australian delegations to meetings of the International Seabed Authority in Kingston.

Mr Smith joined the then Department of Foreign Affairs in 1971. He has held several appointments in the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. He served as Chargé d'Affaires to the Holy See from 1989 to 1992. He is at present Director, Consular Policy Section.

Mr Smith holds a Bachelor of Arts degree with honours from the Australian National University and a Master of Arts degree from the University of Sussex. He is married with four children.

Mr Smith is expected to take up his appointment in March-April 1998.



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