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Initiatives launched to push regional businesses

Published:Friday | March 30, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Mark Beckford, Online Content Coordinator

St Michael, Barbados:

Urging Caribbean companies to take advantage of new opportunities afforded to them and to shed old ways of doing business, the Caribbean Export Development Agency yesterday launched three initiatives aimed at galvanising regional development and growth.

During a press conference in St Michael, Barbados, the agency, a regional organisation for trade, investment and development promotion, highlighted these programmes as vital organs for Caribbean business growth.

These initiatives are the use of London 2012 as a launch pad for "taking Caribbean excellence to the world", the Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM)-EU Business Forum and a business competition called Breaking Point, which aims to link Caribbean businesses and entrepreneurs to the European market through the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Pamella Coke Hamilton, the agency's executive director, told The Gleaner that the strategies are meant to take an out-of-the-box approach to how business is done within the Caribbean and how they translate worldwide.

For example, the London 2012 initiative aims to tap into the Caribbean's brand of sports, music, cuisine, design and essence to deliver it to a diverse audience in London. The forum seeks to twin regional companies with EU markets by raising awareness of the EPA and sectors ready to do business. The business competition Breaking Point will choose two companies from CARIFORUM's 15-member state to do business-to-business relationship building with the European market.

Looking at company dna

Coke Hamilton said the three programmes would seek to engage the companies in a more direct manner.

"We're looking at their marketing, we're looking at their production capacity, we're looking at their finance. Essentially, we are looking at the DNA of the company and when you look at the DNA of the company, it begins to tell you what's missing from this company, so we are trying to have one-on-ones with the companies rather than having these mass workshops which tend to not have the impact we hope we can have," she said.

The impact that Coke Hamilton and the agency hopes to have is that Caribbean companies take more advantage of the EPA agreement. A message which ran through the press conference by the different presenters was that the EPA was not being used to its full potential.

The EPA, signed in 2008, is a trade agreement with development components, designed to open up and enhance trade between Europe and CARIFORUM by removing the barriers to trade between them and by improving CARIFORUM's capacity to trade competitively.

However, Caribbean countries have been accused of not taking full advantage of the trade agreement. Indeed, a €46.5-million agreement between the EU and CARIFORUM was signed recently to boost CARIFORUM's capacity to take full advantage of the provisions of the EPA and to honour its commitments therein.

As such, the agency is hoping the three initiatives announced will jump-start increased usage of the benefits within the EPA and encourage organisations to deliver higher quality services and products.

"Once you engage us as having an interest to entering the EPA market, we will engage you. It's simple, you come to us, we will engage you," said Coke Hamilton.

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