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An "amazing experience" built on tolerance and respect

Interview - January 26, 2012
Subhas Mungra, Suriname's Ambassador to the U.S., outlines the close relationship and shared points of view between the two nations

How are diplomatic relations with the United States?

In one word: excellent. We value our relationship with the U.S. very highly. From a historical point of view, the U.S. was one of the first countries to open a consulate in Suriname. During the Second World War, we produced 70% of bauxite used to build aircraft to fight the Germans and the Japanese. We have about 20 agreements signed with the U.S., which include narco-traffic and anti-terrorism collaborations.

We currently have about 200 military people and civilians from the U.S. who are providing free medical care to the Surinamese. We have ongoing cooperation in the area of defense and we also have had the Peace Corp since 1995. Around 30% of our imports are from the U.S. and it is our third-largest export market. Last year, Suriname received about 10,000 tourists from the United States.

As Ambassador, what is your agenda to maximize the relationship?

We are aiming at enhancing trade and investment. We are looking forward to inviting more U.S. investors to the agriculture and mining sectors. We want to close the trade gap because we have a big trade deficit with the United States (1:3).

American and Canadian operate in the mining sector, the most important contributor to our economy. A company in the U.S. intends to invest in a new gold mine in the eastern part of Suriname. Hopefully others will follow to invest in the agro industry and tourism sector. 

If you were to have Obama here, what would you tell him? 

Our government shares the view that the private sector should be the driver of the economy. In that regard I hope that we can improve our trade relations. I would underscore the government’s view that strengthening security and democracy, as well as the fight against transitional organized crime and terrorism, are essential for the promotion of overall economic development of the region.

In addition, we have some ongoing training programs with the U.S., of which we want to broaden the scope in the near future.

What advice do you have for anyone interested in Suriname? 

Visit Suriname – it is an amazing cultural experience and a walk through colonial history. It is also good for your stomach because of the rich cuisine. Be open-minded. People are very open and they like to communicate. Almost everybody speaks English and they like to learn from visitors.

We have two key things that have been proven positive with respect to nation building in an ethnically and culturally plural society, namely tolerance and respect for cultural diversity.