Barbados' relations with Europe have always been defined through the European Union's (EU) preferential trading arrangements with its former Caribbean colonies, arrangements which have continued to weaken with the passage of time and the changing of circumstance.  With the expansion of the EU and the anticipated end of its preferential treatment of Caribbean commodities, Barbados and other CARICOM member states are poised to enter a new phase in the rationalisation of their association with Europe.

The section on foreign trade deals more specifically with these matters.  In a nutshell, however, Barbados' and the Caribbean's post-colonial relationship with Europe has to a large extent been conducted within the context of successive Lomé conventions. These conventions provided a framework for development co-operation which included:

  • a trade component based on non-reciprocal and duty-free access to the European market;
  • a development assistance component; and
  • an institutional framework for ongoing political dialogue.

This approach has been fruitful for the Caribbean.  Unfortunately, for many of the CARICOM countries whose economies have been heavily dependent on these relationships and the accessibility they accorded to European markets for bananas, sugar, rum and other commodities, the end of the relationship has led to significant hardship in what was once a key foreign exchange-earning sector - agriculture. While Barbados clearly still is interested in safeguarding exports such as sugar and rum, because of the country's own developmental aspirations, it envisions a future Lomé more focused on investment, services, institution building and human resource development.  What is more, both Barbados' preparations for a post-Lomé relationship with Europe and a Western hemispheric free trade area must be conceived as part of a process of the integration of Caribbean economies into a dynamic and complex global market.

Whatever the future of the Caribbean-EU relationship, Europe, a major world market, will remain of great significance to Barbados.  Indeed, Barbados' principal interests in Europe remain clear: tourism, financial and cultural services, investment, shipping, sugar, rum, and niche markets for other manufactured and agricultural products. Air access to key points is critical to tourism development. Expansion of the network of tax and investment treaties is important for the financial services sector.

There is also an important political dimension to Barbadian interests in Europe, where Caribbean security is seen as vital, especially where it involves combating the menace of drug trafficking. Barbados also shares with Europe a strong interest in issues of good governance and democracy and the progressive development of the trade union movement. There also are shared concerns with respect to the environment and sustainable development. And Europe will play a major role in shaping the new international institutions to contain conflict, promote security and uphold international law in the evolving world order.

Apart from the presence of large numbers of Barbadians living in the United Kingdom, that country currently is the source of a large number of tourists as well as an important market for Barbados' manufactured and agricultural products. Moreover there are traditional ties that remain of value.  At the same time, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade takes note of the changing face of continental Europe, the expansion of the EU to include seven formerly eastern European countries, and the fact that these changes are important to Barbados' strategy of diversifying its relations and developing new markets.

Barbados currently has a high commission in London, an embassy in Brussels, an embassy in Geneva, and honorary consulates in Austria, Cyprus, Finland, France, Hungary, Ireland, Luxembourg, Portugal, Germany, and in Gothenburg and Stockholm, Sweden.  Barbados' principal relationships within the European Union are with:

Poland
Portugal
Sweden
Switzerland
Germany
France
The United Kingdom
Austria