A stronger voice is required from the private sector at CARICOM meetings on issues relating to trade and economic development in the region.
Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss threw out this charge ahead of the Council for Trade and Economic Development, (COTED) Ministerial Meeting in Georgetown Guyana, which he will be attending.
Stating that it was generally accepted in the region that economic growth should be private sector led, the Minister opined that ???there was clearly the need for the private sector to be at the table,??? while adding that at the last COTED meeting a request was made for a resuscitation of a regional private sector body to address these issues.
???This time around we are going to get a report on it and we have actually set aside some time on our final day of meetings to engage [in discussions] with the private sector. We are going to have a public/private dialogue-styled road map for re-engagement and a proposal to further the work regarding a mechanism to facilitate engagement with the private sector,??? he explained.
The Minister clarified that the successful negotiation of all of the trade agreements, whether at the intra or extra regional levels, lay within the hands of the private sector.
???They are the ones that are doing the manufacturing, the industrial development, the tourism services etc., and we expect that they, therefore, need to be part of the discussion as we set the policies on trade and economic development???To me, that is going to be a major highlight of our session,??? the Minister said.
Mr. Inniss also noted that another issue he intended to raise at the meeting from Barbados??? perspective was to get greater emphasis placed on trade and services in the region.
???Barbados is primarily a service oriented economy and I don???t think enough emphasis or discussions are being held around the services sector in the region, particularly as we look and negotiate or re-negotiate our external trade arrangements. We have the European Partnership arrangement in place; we have Canada ??? Caribbean that we are looking at now and certainly other third parties that we either enter agreements with or are negotiating. And, for us in Barbados services is very important [as an industry],??? he observed.
Highlighting the insularities that emerge at the fore of regional discussions, the Minister added: ??????In spite of our best efforts to look at things from a regional perspective, people get very caught up in their local politics and very territorial and sometimes, they are not willing to give???And, until you get a change in attitude at that level I don???t think CARICOM is going to become more relevant and we are going to get tremendous success from our deliberations.
That is not going to prohibit Barbados from being at the table and arguing not just on our behalf but on behalf of the wider region to give effect to the change that we think is necessary, that we think will lead to more vibrant and diversified trade and by extension, greater economic development.???