Forty-two company representatives from the CARIFORUM region, and French and British overseas territories and dependencies met with members of the Cayman business community last week in an attempt to reinvigorate regional trade.
The visit was part of a business forum, as well as the ninth meeting of the CARIFORUM, French Caribbean Outermost regions (FCORs) and EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Caribbean Task Force on Trade and Investment at the Westin resort from June 25 to 27.
The Caribbean Export Development Agency, whose primary goal is to help facilitate trade between the territories of the Caribbean region, led the delegation of Caribbean entrepreneurs.
Executive director Pamela Cooke-Hamilton said while trade between the CARIFORUM, FCORs and OCTs has been going on for a long time, it has fallen off over the past decade.
“We have actually regressed as a region,” she said, adding that the countries of the Caribbean have changed trade routes and the way they trade.
“What we are trying to do through this engagement and our geographical proximity is to increase and invigorate that trade once again.”
Although being part of the same geographic space should be conducive to regional trade ties, 90 percent of Cayman’s imports and regional imports come from outside the Caribbean.
“One thing that we want to do not just in Cayman, in all the regions, is to increase the level of trade and address the obstacles that exist,” Ms. Cooke-Hamilton said.
These obstacles include shipping and transport routes and technical barriers in the form of taxes or sanitary issues, which are related to overall standards and EU regulations.
“It is easier to get something from St. Kitt’s to Miami than from St. Kitt’s to Barbados. It is tragic, but it is true,” Ms. Cooke-Hamilton said. At the same time the volume of trade is too low to actively engage the shipping industry.
Other trade barriers include the lack of familiarity with import procedures, a lack of distribution networks across the Caribbean, and immigration issues, Ms. Cooke-Hamilton noted.
“Immigration issues are something we need to address from the perspective of business. I understand that every country has the inviolable right to retain and protect its immigration borders. But I think it is very important that we facilitate the movement of business people in a manner that does not cause restriction.”
The Chamber of Commerce and the Caribbean Export Development Agency hosted a morning of presentations regarding trade issues and facilitated meetings between Caribbean and Cayman companies with a view to developing trade ties.
The delegates from 15 Caribbean countries also visited Cayman Enterprise City to meet with member companies of the special economic zone. Cayman Enterprise City won the Caribbean Export Agency’s Special Award at the 2013 Regional Investor of the Year Awards. The award also influenced the Caribbean Export Agency’s decision to host a business forum in Cayman.
“CEC represents Caribbean commerce at its highest quality and functionality and should be commended for pioneering a successful economic zone in the region,” Ms. Cooke-Hamilton said.
“Trade within the Caribbean is only possible through the establishment of strong linkages, and our facilitation of business meetings between CARIFORUM, FCOR and OCT firms at CEC is a step closer towards building the kinds of relationships required to grow regional trade.”
Cayman Enterprise City chief executive Charlie Kirkconnell said, “We thoroughly enjoyed hosting the delegation at CEC and believe the very active business networking session between delegates and zone companies will pave the way for some fruitful business relationships.”