CARICOM launches new initiative to facilitate intra-regional trade
PARAMARIBO, Suriname, CMC – The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) today launched a new regional platform to facilitate intra-regional trade in goods and agricultural products, even as President Chandrikapersad Santokhi reminded that one of the key principles of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME) “was and still is, to achieve regional integration, and economic growth, within our community”.
The initiative, dubbed 'CIMSUPRO' – CARICOM Market Place and Suspension Procedure – will register suppliers and buyers of CARICOM originating goods.
Santokhi, who is also the CARICOM chairman, said that CIMSUPRO provides a platform where entrepreneurs from CARICOM can offer their products, from raw materials to finished products.
He said the region faces many challenges resulting from global developments, including the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, “and in order to recover from that, the region needs to be better equipped and “must first work on strengthening our communities' capacities and supporting each other.
“After all, the initial intention of the grouping of countries, now known as CARICOM, was to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members. As the oldest surviving integration movement in the developing world, CARICOM has the duty to set forth its goals and be a model for regional integration.”
Santokhi told the ceremony that the region faces many challenges, such as the need to enhance productivity and sustainable growth, which in turn, requires the ability to transform its economic base.
“Trade and economic development shall only be achieved through private-public partnerships. After all, it is the private sector that trades and does business. Therefore, I'm more than delighted with the establishment of CIMSUPRO,” he said, noting that it is helping in the formation of a CARICOM industrial policy.
“The extension of the regional integration, which has been sought since the start of CARICOM, can now be reached just by visiting the website to seek the necessary inputs from the CARICOM marketplace.”
Santokhi said that CIMSUPRO provides a strategic aim towards improving the efficiency “of our regional suspension mechanism, which is directly aimed towards encouraging production. More so, it seeks to develop our industrial policy.”
He said long waiting periods for suspension granted by the CARICOM Secretariat “and the uncertainty of not knowing at which stage your suspension request is, are things of the past.
“With this platform we have given the first step towards further expanding our Industrial Policy strategies,” he said, urging all member states to populate CIMSUPRO.
AN IMPORTANT MILESTONE
CARICOM Secretary General, Dr. Carla Barnett, speaking at the launch, said the initiative marks an important milestone in the evolution of the way trade and business can and will be conducted within the 15-member grouping.
“It creates a digital 'marketplace' where regional buyers and sellers of regionally produced goods can contact and contract each other directly. It also introduces the potential for improving the efficiency in processing applications for a suspension of the Common External Tariff (CET),” said Dr Barnett.
She said that while the Guyana-based CARICOM Secretariat will continue to consult with member states directly on requests for suspensions, the CIMSUPRO portal will provide an important source of information on the review of all requests and over time, CIMSUPRO can become a processing platform for such requests.
She said it is fitting that the initiative is being launched by President Santokhi, because it was Suriname that proposed the establishment of this online platform for the promotion of intra-regional trade to the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) some time ago.
“Not only did Suriname propose this innovative mechanism, but it is also Suriname that facilitated the design and establishment of the platform. The Community extends its deep appreciation to the Government of Suriname for this contribution to the development of our Single Market,” said Dr Barnett.
“For any market, including the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, to function efficiently, information on trading opportunities must be available. As we push for increased regional production and supply of goods, especially food items to replace our high and unsustainable dependence on imports, putting information on the availability of CARICOM inputs for manufacturers as well as finished CARICOM products at the fingertips of regional buyers is absolutely important.”
She said external shocks coming from the COVID-19 pandemic, the conflict between Russia and Ukraine, and climate change have made the importance of building resilience in regional economies even more critical.
“Disruptions in global supply chains continue to linger, high oil and food prices continue to push the vulnerable into poverty; and the scarcity of and resulting high cost of agriculture inputs such as fertilizers has made access to these inputs extremely difficult,” she said.
Dr Barnett said that in the midst of these uncertainties, regional leaders have redoubled their commitment to the CSME as the best option for building economic resilience and safeguarding the welfare, gains and standard of living of the people of the region.
She said that increased production and trade will lead to the creation of new job opportunities, generate foreign exchange, increase the base for government revenue, and help restore fiscal balance, thereby improving macroeconomic fundamentals.
“One area that presents great opportunity for increased regional production and import substitution is agri-food products. Over US$3.7 billion in agri-food products was imported into the region in 2018. To expand regional production and supply to reduce this import bill, producers and buyers must have access to market information in good time and in a user-friendly manner – the CIMSUPRO will provide this,” said Dr Barnett.
But she acknowledged that for CIMSUPRO to deliver these benefits, the portal's database must be populated with information on products from as many regional producers as possible, and it must attract the buyers who use and distribute products across our region.
She said the Secretariat's team will work closely with national trade officials who have been trained in the use of CIMSUPRO and all stakeholders, especially the private sector, to ensure that this important mechanism realizes its full potential and facilitates the expansion of trade in the regional single market.
“The CIMSUPRO is poised to become an important marketing website for products of CARICOM origin within and beyond the Single Market. Both regional and extra-regional buyers and traders as well as individual consumers would have an authoritative source from which they would be able to gain information on genuine CARICOM manufactured products,” she said.
“There is also the potential of linking this portal to other regional online platforms targeting potential buyers, including through platforms serving the tourism sector.
“A successful CIMSUPRO could become a template for digital solutions in other sectors, especially in services which is the mainstay of regional economies.”
Barnett said given the significant role that services trade plays in the structure of the gross domestic product (GDP) of the economies of most member states, having a digital platform for sharing information on services in the Community and matching service providers with buyers could strengthen trade in services intra-regionally and beyond.
“Ladies and gentlemen, this ceremony today could be a game changer in regional trade and I am delighted that we are not only launching the portal as a platform for future use, but that we already have seven companies registered on the site and more are coming,” she added.
Stakeholders, especially suppliers of regionally produced goods, can access the portal and register via the following link https://www.cimsupro.com/user/register
Follow The Gleaner on Twitter and Instagram @JamaicaGleaner and on Facebook @GleanerJamaica. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 1-876-499-0169 or email us at email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.