CARICOM: the Women Trade Ministers

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By Elizabeth Morgan

March 8 was commemorated as International Women’s Day (IWD) with the theme “Women in Leadership: Achieving an Equal Future in a COVID-19 World”. At the multilateral level, the three (3) international trade organizations, the World Trade Organization (WTO), the International Trade Centre (ITC); and the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) are currently headed by women, one from the CARICOM region.

The Caribbean is recognized by the International Labour Organization (ILO) as a region with a high percentage of female managers. The 2015 statistics showed Jamaica having one of the world’s highest percentage of female managers and a recent report from the World Economic Forum, using ILO 2019 statistics, has Saint Lucia among the top 8 countries in the world with the highest number of female managers.

This is not usually reflected in politics, although the region has had several women holding the post of Head of Government: Eugenia Charles, Dominica; Janet Jagan, Guyana; Portia Simpson Miller, Jamaica; Kamla Persad-Bissessar, Trinidad and Tobago; and, currently, Mia Mottley, Barbados. A number of women have and are also holding Ministerial portfolios, though women are still in the minority in Cabinet appointments. In recent general elections, it does appear that more women are entering the political arena. Guyana and Trinidad and Tobago, I learnt, have a quota for women candidates presented in general elections.

The CARICOM Secretary General, Amb. Irwin LaRocque, in his IWD remarks stated that the future is more promising when women are equally represented alongside men in leadership roles. As a note, CARICOM’s Deputy Secretary General is a woman, Amb. Manorma Soeknandan of Suriname.

As an IWD encore, considering the theme of women in leadership at the national, regional and multilateral levels, I thought that I would highlight the women in the CARICOM region who currently have ministerial responsibility for the foreign trade portfolios in their countries. There are five (5).

The five women trade Ministers

CARICOM Heads, at their 32nd Intersessional Meeting, considered action required to generate economic recovery with the aim to build back better post COVID-19. Improving intra- and extra-regional trade will make a vital contribution to job creation and economic growth and development. The five (5) female Ministers holding this important portfolio are:

  1. Senator, the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Jamaica. Minister Johnson Smith, an attorney-at-
    Kamina Johnson Smith

    law, with qualifications in international relations and commercial law, was appointed to this post in 2016 and re-appointed in 2020. She is the first woman to be assigned this portfolio in Jamaica. She has been a Senator since 2009.

  2. Senator, the Hon. Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade, Industry and Enterprise Development, Trinidad and Tobago. Minister Gopee-Scoon is also a an attorney. In another administration, she was a Member of
    Paula Gopee-Scoon

    Parliament and Minister of Foreign Affairs. She was assigned the trade portfolio in 2015 and retained it in 2020.

  3. Hon. Cheryl Sandra V. Husbands, M.P., Minister of Foreign Trade, Barbados. She was assigned this portfolio in 2018. Minister Sandra
    Cheryl Sandra V. Husbands

    Husbands has qualifications in International Trade Policy. She is a business consultant who was President of the Barbados Small Business Association and of the Caribbean Association of Small and Medium Enterprises.

  4. Hon. Sarah Flood Beaubrun
    Sarah Flood Beaubrun

    , M.P., Minister responsible for External Affairs in the Office of the Prime Minister, Saint Lucia. She was assigned this portfolio in 2016. She held other Ministerial portfolios in the past. Minister Beaubrun was also Speaker of the House and Deputy Permanent Representative of Saint Lucia to the United Nations in New York. She is also an attorney.

  5. Senator, the Hon. Wendy Colleen Phipps, Minister of International
    Wendy Colleen Phipps

    Trade, Commerce, Consumer Affairs and Labour, St. Kitts/Nevis.  She was assigned this portfolio in June 2020. A Management Consultant with training in Mass Communications, she was a Vice President of the OECS Business Council. In 2015, she was Minister of Health, Community Development, Gender Affairs and Social Services.

Women have been lauded for their leadership during this pandemic. We look to these women’s further leadership as the region strives to contain the COVID-19 virus and, indeed, endeavours to increase exports of goods and services in order to recover and build back better.

I am also taking this opportunity to salute all the women at the national and regional levels, in the public and private sectors, who are continuing the effort to make progress in intra- and extra-regional trade in these challenging times.

Submitted by Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics

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