Senator Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. (FP)

Barbadian and Panamanian entrepreneurs have been urged to take advantage of the trade mission currently under way in that Central American country by exploring investment opportunities, forging linkages and building enduring partnerships.

??In a message to introduce the trade mission to the Republic of Panama, this country’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, gave the assurance that Government would give whatever counsel, advice or encouragement deemed necessary for business people to pursue these objectives.

"We will ensure that the requisite legislative, regulatory and institutional structures are in place to facilitate the fullest range of economic activity," Senator McClean promised.

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, is heading the mission, which includes officials from the private and public sectors in Barbados. The delegation will be in Panama from October 18 to 22, and Costa Rica from October 23 to 26.????

Alluding to the longstanding ties between the two countries, Senator McClean said she saw the mission "as being as much about renewing friendships, acknowledging contributions and recounting and celebrating historic experiences, as it is about gaining access to national markets, seeking new suppliers of raw materials and new distributors for our products".

According to her, Panama’s economy had experienced an economic boom, with growth in real Gross Domestic Product averaging over 10.4 per cent from 2006-2008. Therefore, she noted, "that economy has been among the fastest growing and best managed in Latin America." She said that some observers had even predicted that Panama would be the "fastest growing economy" in Latin America in the five-year period 2010 to 2014, matching Brazil’s 10 per cent rate.

"Added to this, the expansion of the Panama Canal, combined with the conclusion of a free trade agreement with the United States, is expected to boost and extend economic expansion for some time.

"Barbados, for its part, has managed to weather the worst effects of the global economic crisis, and some growth has begun to return to the economy. The Government has embarked upon a vigorous programme of increasing the number of indigenous entrepreneurs and self-employed persons. In addition, we have embarked upon a strategic programme of sectoral diversification by means of promoting what has been termed the new economy," she pointed out.

Senator McClean expressed the view that all of these initiatives "point to the time being very opportune" for Barbadian and Panamanian businesses to explore new ventures, expansions and opportunities.

She admitted, however, that much work would have to be done "in bringing familiarity in what, hitherto, has been unfamiliar terrain" and in sharing information on different business practices and social customs, as well as in bridging the language divide.

The Minister stressed that these challenges were not insurmountable as investors from countries with even fewer cultural connections collaborated daily to exploit every business opportunity in our region. She suggested, that "it rests with both Governments to shape an enabling environment which is conducive to the conduct of businesses. It is, however, up to the business persons on both sides to identify and grasp the various opportunities which exist," Senator McClean maintained.


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