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The Caribbean’s ‘invisible umbilical cord’

By Sneh Duggal      

Former Trinidad and Tobago envoy Philip Buxo wrapped up his posting at the end of June.

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Philip Buxo may have wrapped up his diplomatic posting in Ottawa, but he left behind a message to Canadians: the Caribbean is open for business.

The former high commissioner for Trinidad and Tobago said the Caribbean countries, known as the Caribbean Community or CARICOM, could greatly benefit from the Canadian private sector participating in public-private partnerships in the region.

Mr. Buxo told Embassy during a December 2013 interview that the CARICOM governments need to finance roads, bridges and power plants among other things and that Canadians can play a role.

“This is a great opportunity for the Canadian private sector to be involved with these massive infrastructure projects on a [public-private partnership] model,” said Mr. Buxo, who wrapped up his posting at the high commission on June 30.

The Canadian government’s development program for the Caribbean includes efforts to promote public-private partnerships that “generate employment and attract investment for growth,” according to a government website.

A major focus for Mr. Buxo during his stint as a diplomat was trade. This meant going to the private sector and talking about the opportunities available.

“A lot of people don’t realize that the CARICOM is a great market,” Mr. Buxo said. “Some opportunities like within neighbours, if you spend a little bit of time and you work on them, you might find them to be the most beneficial in the long run.”

He said there is already an “invisible umbilical cord” between Canada and the Caribbean including the large diaspora in Canada, the students who come to Canada from the Caribbean, Commonwealth ties, and the influx of Canadian banks present in the Caribbean.

“Doing business in the Caribbean for Canada is relatively easy, because most of the people that they go to in the corporate executive have been schooled in Canada,” Mr. Buxo said.

Visits, expansion, and a book

Mr. Buxo oversaw an exchange of officials during his stint in Ottawa. Trinidad’s prime minister, Kamla Persad-Bissessar, came to the Canadian capital for an official visit in 2013.

“I think the two leaders were able to meet each other…and out of that came a friendship so we were quite pleased,” Mr. Buxo said.

The former high commissioner accompanied Governor General David Johnston to his home country in 2012.

Mr. Buxo established an honorary consul position in Montreal last year and said in December that they had nominated four other honorary consuls. Two of them have already been appointed in Vancouver and Halifax. Meanwhile, the Toronto consulate general moved into a new building under his watch.

Mr. Buxo also decided to work on a book, which Ms. Persad-Bissessar launched during her visit, on relations between Canada and Trinidad and Tobago.

“It’s really a book or questions that I had when I first came to Canada as a high commissioner, so I decided to share all my findings in the book,” he said.

Dubbed Together We Aspire, Together We Achieve: Trinidad and Tobago in Canada, the book included the history of the two countries, economic partnerships, former high commissioners and a selection of close to 300 Trinidadians including doctors and politicians.

And if you take a stroll through the high commission, you’ll walk through an area filled with screens and exhibits of clothing, food and investment opportunities in Trinidad and Tobago.

It’s like a 3D synopsis of the tiny country.

“I said to myself we need to upgrade and get into the 21st century how we present ourselves and that’s what that lounge is,” Mr. Buxo said of the new exhibition lounge within the building.

The touch screens navigate visitors to facts about the country, while the bottles of sauces and other Caribbean delights are sure to tingle anyone’s taste buds.

Leaving Ottawa, returning home

Mr. Buxo said he was pleased by the level of professionalism that he saw within the public sector in Canada.

“They are total professionals and committed to their job, they didn’t have any time limits for when they had to work or go home and the quality of the work and the arrangements, I was really surprised and pleased to work with them,” he said.

Mr. Buxo served for more than three years as high commissioner, but his time in Canada exceeded that. He spent about four years with SNC-Lavalin as director of the CARICOM region energy and infrastructure division.

Mr. Buxo is returning to his home country to help out with the family’s oil services business, which provides equipment and personnel for activities related to the oil and gas industries.


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