Barbados seeks to strengthen its relations with the United States, Canada, the United Kingdom, Ireland, and the Commonwealth by negotiating for new trade and economic relationships. As a member of the Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM), Arthur continues to negotiate for entry into a Free Trade Area of the Americas and promotes Barbados as a gateway for extraregional investment in the region. Barbados will continue to play an active role in shaping the new order through its involvement in several international organizations, such as the United Nations (UN) and the World Trade Organization (WTO).
Arthur has recognized that a single market and economy within CARICOM will provide Barbadian entrepreneurs and workers with greater economic opportunities. Therefore, he continues to promote the implementation of this policy. Arthur said that his aim is to make Barbados the most competitive Caribbean country by the year 2005. Looking ahead to 2005, Arthur announced that he has already begun negotiations with the European Union and the North American Free Trade Area. In his annual televised speech to the House of Assembly (1999), Arthur said that for Barbados to compete on the world market, it must curtail excessive consumer demand driven by easy access to credit and seek to reverse the trend of falling exports and declining tourism.
As part of the ongoing effort to stimulate trade and tourism, Barbados signed a new Air Services Agreement with the United Kingdom on 23 June 1999, replacing an agreement signed in 1971. The new agreement will expand coverage and improve the transport of people, cargo, and mail.
In a step toward a single Caribbean market, Arthur announced in July 1999 that Barbados would lift the ban against importing soft drinks. Later, in August, he pressured Trinidad and Tobago to lower oil prices. Because of treaties, Barbados is locked into buying oil from within the region, and Arthur complained that Trinidad and Tobago were charging above world market prices for gasoline and diesel fuel.
Although Barbados still has no representation in any of the African capitals, Arthur intends to systematically develop cultural and economic links with Africa through trade missions and tourist and cultural exchanges. He appointed an African ambassador and established the Commission for African Affairs to promote people-to-people contacts.
Arthur intends to play a leading role in the Association of Caribbean States, especially by having the Caribbean Sea recognized by the international community as a special area for environmental protection. Barbados was the host country for CARICOM during the 1997 visit of then-U.S. president Bill Clinton. Arthur himself has been a presence in international meetings, leading or participating in a number of high-level international trade missions, including a Commonwealth mission to the WTO.
At a meeting of the Organization of American States in St. Vincent in January 2003, the island nations of the Caribbean discussed ways to cooperate to improve security. This issue arose in the wake of the terrorist attacks on the United States on 11 September 2001 and the resulting downturn in tourism in the Caribbean, a mainstay of the regional economy. The nations acknowledge that their relaxed security atmosphere could enable terrorists to use the region as a stopping point on their way to the United States.