(left to right) Panamanian, Barbadian and Costa Rican flags (Microsoft Clip Art)

With many countries across the globe still reeling from the current economic recession, Government recognises that Barbados must become a globally competitive, productive, and export focused economy.

The undertaking of a diplomatic and commercial mission to Panama and Costa Rica from October 18 to 26, therefore represents an important initiative to increase this island’s trade and investment opportunities. It is designed to spur economic growth and development, while creating employment.

Permanent Secretary in the Division of Foreign Trade, Bentley Gibbs, said Panama and Costa Rica "are not new markets for Barbados," but explained that stronger linkages had not been forged because of technical and administrative barriers. However, these are gradually being resolved as a framework for better facilitation would be put in place.

He pointed out that Barbados is party to an agreement establishing a Free Trade Area between CARICOM and Costa Rica, as well as a number of economic and social bilateral instruments with Panama. "So, Barbados is now seeking to increase cooperation with those Central American countries and make those arrangements work to our mutual benefit.??

??Costa Rican Beach (Microsoft Clip Art)

"Barbados has limited trade with Costa Rica in spite of the Free Trade Agreement between the two territories. Although the Costa Rican market has consistently been a source of finished goods and raw materials for Barbadian exporters and importers, respectively, the export potential of this market has not yet been fully explored by Barbadian firms," Mr. Gibbs observed.

The Permanent Secretary noted that the Panamanian market was "ripe" for Barbadian goods and services suppliers to exploit. He said there were some viable areas for market penetration in both countries, and listed some of them as tourism, educational, entertainment, cultural, professional and financial services.

Minister of Tourism, Richard Sealy, will head the mission and the delegation will include the Minister of Industry, Small Business and Rural Development, Denis Kellman; Barbados’ Ambassador to Washington, John Beale, who has responsibility for Panama and Costa Rica; Director of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation, Sonja Trotman and Mr. Gibbs.

Those private and public sector organisations participating in the mission are: Invest Barbados, the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation, Barbados Manufacturers’ Association, Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry, Barbados Coalition of Service Industries, and companies which include Beverages Caribbean Limited, Caribbean Label Crafts Ltd., Carlisle Laboratories Ltd., Exotica Condiments Inc., La Rosa Couture Inc., McBride Caribbean Ltd, and Solaris Global Energy Ltd.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency has provided significant financial support for this initiative, and as a result, a regional element has been included. Six persons from the Chambers of Commerce in Antigua, Dominica, Grenada, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia and St. Vincent and the Grenadines will accompany the mission, as well as two officials from the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States Secretariat.

Panamanian??open market (Microsoft Clip Art)??

Underscoring the importance of this mission, Mr. Gibbs disclosed that last year Cabinet instructed the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade to prepare a strategy paper on how Barbados could further access trade with Costa Rica and Panama. "The Ministry undertook this mandate, informed by its portfolio responsibility to manage and advance the agenda of the Council for Investment, Exports, Foreign Exchange and the Diaspora," he said.

In line with that directive, the necessary preparatory work was done and the overseas mission organised. The objectives of the mission include showcasing Barbados’ products and services, enhancing the foreign earning capacity of local businesses, and providing local manufacturers and service providers with the opportunity to establish business relations and commercial contacts within Panama and Costa Rica.

At the regional level, its main aim is to expand the range of regional exports to these extra-regional markets, thereby enhancing the Caribbean’s participation globally.

So, with these objectives clearly in mind, the delegation has embarked on the mission with the intent of securing more business opportunities and a market niche for Barbados and the region in Central America.

Barbados established diplomatic relations with Costa Rica and Panama in 1972 and 1975, respectively.?? However, Barbados’ relationship with Panama dates back to the construction of the Panama Canal when thousands of Barbadians worked alongside other West Indians in building that waterway. Many of their descendants still live in Panama.??


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