Speech to the Consular Corps of Thailand by Arnold Foote, President of FICAC

June 17, 2015 | East Asia, News

Dean of the Consular Corps of Thailand

Esteemed consular Colleagues All

I greet you well on this auspicious day in the history of the World Federation of Consuls

It is my honour and pleasure to be here with you today in Bangkok.

I thank you for that kind and warm introduction.

First and foremost I wish to thank the Dean and Members of the Consular Corps of Thailand for the gracious welcome extended to my wife and myself.

I wish next to express my sincere appreciation to Hon. Dr. Virachai Techavijit, Honorary Consul of the Republic of Estonia in Thailand, who attended the Congress in Jamaica, made some excellent suggestions there, and has done superb work in organizing this planning meeting. We are all deeply grateful to him.

A special welcome also to Consuls and Deans from the region to this planning meeting, held with a view to holding a major regional meeting in August 2007.

My main profession is in the areas of Marketing and Communications for over 40 years, and I have the honour to be the Consul General for Turkey in Jamaica. I was Dean of the Consular Corps in Jamaica for 6 years and gave up that post in January to be able to concentrate on the work of the World Federation of Consuls. I have recently been honoured by being named Dean Emeritus of the Consular Corps of Jamaica.

In November of 2006, Jamaica had the special privilege of hosting the 8th World Congress of Consuls. At that time, I was elected President of the World Federation of Consuls.

Having spent 5 years as a Director for the International Federation of Consuls (FICAC), it was clear to me that the organization needed new and different thinking to move it forward, and my team and I were given a powerful mandate for change at the recent General Assembly.

This meeting is considered to be so important that 3 of our Directors have decided to make a special trip to join us. I extend a special welcome to Hon. K. L. Ganju, our Director from India, Hon. Costas Lefkaritis, of Cyprus and Hon. Aykut Eken from Turkey, and thank them for their full support.

It is my intention to broaden the membership of the organization and in particular, to strengthen the Regional Focus of the World Federation.

This is the first step in that process and I am delighted to be starting the journey in this region, which is asserting its rightful influence in the world.

At our Director’s meeting in January in Brussels, we decided to refer to the organization as the “World Federation of Consuls” as it projects our focus and purpose. We are here to SERVE Consuls all over the world.

The World Federation of Consuls was established in Copenhagen in October 1982 – 25 years ago. It was born of the necessity to bring together Consular Associations and Corps from all over the world, to share experiences and co-ordinate efforts to enhance the status and effectiveness of the Consul, the oldest institution serving International Bilateral Relations. We need to expand our reach, and a quarter of a century later, its purposes are still relevant.

Incidentally, we are in the process of planning our 25th Anniversary Celebrations.

We aim to be a truly global network of Consular Associations created to support and improve the status, legitimacy and effectiveness of all consular officers in all
Sending and Receiving States.

We aim to:

  • Promote and strengthen mutual understanding between Honorary Consuls and Career Consuls worldwide;
  • Develop a framework and basis for exchange of current information, ideas and suggestions regarding matters related to the office of Honorary Consul.
  • Promote at national and international level for a better understanding of duties and responsibilities, rights and privileges of the Honorary Consuls.

Since 1993, the organization has enjoyed the status of a United Nations NGO (Ecosoc Observer) and has been accredited by the Permanent Council of the Organization of American States on March 13th, 2002 as a Civil Society.

It is of critical importance for you to know that we abstain from all religious or political activities and from the practice of any discrimination on the grounds of race, gender, colour, religion or other such grounds.

  • Consular operations can no longer be confined to the issuance of travel documents and attention to the welfare of the nationals of the countries that we represent, as globalization has altered the framework for bilateral and multilateral cooperation.
  • The role of the Honorary Consul must be expanded to encompass the full range of economic, political and diplomatic relations.
  • This expanded role is particularly important for developing countries and small states who cannot afford global deployment of their foreign service.
  • It is in this context that consular representatives must constantly update the theory and practice of the craft, as we must become more relevant to the global struggle for peace, security and sustainable development.
  • Unity of purpose and organization permits us to be positioned strategically for these purposes. I would like to suggest that the World Federation of Consuls is an ideal ‘umbrella’ for those aims.

I will set out below, some of our ideas for achieving these goals.

TRADE

The area of trade and its promotion will be integral to this administration, and is of primary importance in projecting and strengthening the Federation image worldwide as a truly international organization.

I have done some initial research and I find that there are many Trade Agreements signed and dormant. Some of them have been signed twice and still remain inactive.

We are currently in discussion with the European Union and the Organization of American States to see how we could partner with them in order to develop an international trade promotion programme with an objective of turning these Trade Agreements into Real Business.

The theme of the programme is:

“Transforming Trade Agreements into Real Business”

Many of us are in business as well as being Consuls, and this is a relatively simple and effective blend of the skills that we bring to the table. I have reason to believe that certain organizations such as the EU and the OAS would be willing to partner with us in this endeavour.

For trade agreements to have a meaningful impact on business development, there has to be a continuous process of dialogue and engagement at different levels.

It is not sufficient for the process to remain in the hands of trade negotiators, political leaders and national or regional institutions. A wider cross-section of stakeholders (be they manufacturer, non-governmental organization or consumer) must become engaged in shaping the direction and content of international trade agreements.

The World Federation of Consuls is potentially ideally suited to participate positively in this regard. These are some of the reasons:

A critically important component of the foundation of peace, democracy and development is economic growth. In today’s world economy, which is being transformed by a comprehensive process of advanced globalization, international trade is the engine of economic growth and has assumed an increasingly prominent role in State to State relations. In this regard, the World Trade Organization (WTO) has indicated that world merchandise exports grew by 13% to US$10.2 trillion in 2005 while commercial services exports expanded by 10% and amounted to US$2.4 trillion in that same year.

As part of this process, there has been renewed momentum for th conclusion of trade agreements whether at the bilateral, regional or multilateral levels. Over 190 Regional Trade Agreements (RTAs) have so far been notified to the WTO. In fact, the EU has been the forefront of many of these agreements (including the EU-Chile FTA, EU-South Africa FTA) and otheres that are yet to be concluded. The EU is therefore a natural partner in this aspect of our proposed work.

In my own region, there is the much publicized case of the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA) Agreement. This hemispheric agreement should have been concluded among 34 Member States of the Americas by January 2005. Unfortunately, due to disagreement over the treatment of agricultural subsidies in particular, FTAA negotiations were officially suspended in early 2004. Despite efforts by CARICOM and other Member States to restart the process, no meaningful results have so far been achieved.

Despite this history, many of us would be aware that there has been a long history of trade and development cooperation between the European Union and the Member States of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of countries.

This could perhaps allow us ultimately to develop agreements with the EU and/or the OAS with a view to the promotion of world trade with all its modern complexities. There may even be a basis for obtaining funding which is an aspect that I have also begun to explore when I met with the EU a few weeks ago.

The latest thrust by the EU and the ACP to conclude regional Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) by 2008, holds great potential for broadening the scope of trade. To be successful, this will require the provision of adequate development support for capacity building, institutional strengthening and technology transfer, especially within the ACP business sector.

Consular Corps have traditionally devoted their attention to representational activities including the provision of commercial information. There is an urgent need to re-dimension the role to encompass trade promotion and advocacy. Indeed, the Consular Corps have a comparative advantage in undertaking trade promotion because:

The Consular Corps has a much broader geographic deployment and can therefore provide more extensive coverage than the Diplomatic Corps. This is particularly so for developing countries who are unable to afford diplomatic representation in all the locations where they have important economic interests.

The Consular Corps has a presence in all major cities i.e. the centres of business and commerce whereas the Diplomatic Corps is concentrated in capital cities, which, in several cases, are political rather than economic centres.

The Consular Corps include a high proportion of persons with considerable business expertise and they are therefore ideally suited to trade promotion.

The members of the Consular Corps are more immersed in communities in ways in which diplomats cannot be, and their knowledge of local conditions and local products can be useful in identifying niche markets, distribution networks and new tradable goods and services.

Consuls can be important conduits for information, which can inform international trade negotiations and enhance the awareness and involvement of the public.

In Jamaica, the International Trade Expo which was initiated by me in 2003 is a vivid example of trade in action. It has been so successful that the Government has put it on its national calendar, and is fully supported by the Diplomatic Corps as well.

I also initiated the International Cultural Gala, which always precedes the International Trade Expo. At this Gala, countries represented in Jamaica, present cultural items, giving the people of Jamaica an opportunity to be exposed to different cultures from all over the world. This International Cultural Gala is put on by the Consular Corps of Jamaica, free of cost on an annual basis.

I believe that it is through cultural exchange programmes that international relations are cemented.

The first day of the International Trade Expo is usually restricted to buyers and important visitors who need extra security. Thereafter it is open to the general public.

We need to build partnerships at different levels in order to give life to the elements contained in the trade agreements which in turn lead to the expansion of business opportunities and small business development. We can play our part as we “Transform Trade Agreements into Real Business”.

EDUCATION

The advent of globalization is altering the role of the Honorary Consul considerably. The Honorary Consul is being called upon to do more to encompass the full range of economic, political and diplomatic relations.

This new and expanded role is particularly important to developing countries and small states who cannot afford the global deployment of its foreign service.

We Honorary Consuls must become more relevant to the global struggle for peace, security and sustainable development.

This is why the World Federation of Consuls is developing an educational programme for its members in order for us to constantly update the theory and practice the craft.

The objectives of the International Relations and Diplomacy Course are as follows:

  1. To ensure that persons appointed as Consuls, Honorary Consuls and Consuls General, are fully cognizant of:
    • The changing world order and how to operate within such an environment.
    • To understand the inter-relationships among states.
    • To understand various world organizations, for example, the United Nations (UN), and their relevance to civil society.

  2. To update Consuls, Honorary Consuls and Consuls-General that the role previously expected of them has changed dramatically, and now they have a greater responsibility to the Sending States, and therefore, must understand the new paradigm shift in international relations.
  3. To assist the business community to understand the nature and challenges of current international relations, equipping them to conduct their business more effectively on the global scene.

This International Relations and Diplomacy Course will provide you with an invaluable tool; the understanding of the relationship between states and how they impact on each other. It will help you to develop an analytical approach to international news, and will assist you to bring a fresh view to whatever your area of business or interest.

I have asked Hon. Dr. Virachai Techavijit to develop this programme further, as he already has complete knowledge of what these courses entail, and I am certain that he will have a lot to say on this subject later.

The meeting scheduled in August will be another historic step in the work of the World Federation of Consuls, and today, we will devote time to planning the programme, which will respond to your needs, whilst promoting the noble aims of the World Federation of Consuls.

I thank you for your time and attention and look forward to receiving your ideas, criticisms and frank input, as we proceed on this important journey together.

ONE LOVE – Thank you very much.