Ramdin: Caribbean must become launch pad
By Sasha Harrinanan Thursday, June 21 2012
IF Caribbean countries are to truly become a launch pad for business in the Americas, they need to be “open” for international business and international trade, otherwise they risk not being part of the “global value chain.” Organisation of American States (OAS)Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin, gave this advice while addressing delegates at the 2012 Caribbean Investment Forum (CIF) at Hilton Trinidad last month.
“Economic nationalism is not (an option) for the Caribbean. We need to be opening ourselves up to international business, international trade. Caribbean countries need to become more business savvy if the region is to become a more effective launch pad for business into and out of the Americas,” Ramdin advised.
Ramdin noted the Caribbean’s prime location between two major markets in the hemisphere; the emerging markets of Latin America, in particular Brazil, and the well-established market of one of the richest economies in the world, the United States. He also pointed to the region’s historically stable political climate, its financial regulatory framework which offers security to businesses and its skilled, educated workforce, many of whom have travelled extensively and so are able to adapt to new circumstances.
That’s not enough though to achieve the goal outlined in the topic. Hence Ramdin’s call for regional governments and the private sector alike to make better use of existing trade arrangements while urging them to sign more free trade deals. “We don’t have many of them. We have partial scope agreements, asymmetric agreements with Colombia and others but the Caribbean is one of the last regions to enter into full free trade arrangements with other partners.”
One member of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) did come in for praise from Ramdin however - Trinidad and Tobago (TT).
“I must congratulate TT on taking the lead for positioning itself for the whole region, (starting) this trend toward more free trade agreements, as it has done with Panama, Guatemala and others. That is great but we need to sign more agreements,” Ramdin said, “if we are to present ourselves as a place of business for anyone looking to do business in Latin America and North America.”
Ramdin argued that creation of sustainable and prosperous Caribbean societies would require both government and private sector “to make tough choices” but he chose not to elaborate on what exactly this would entail.
“This region has to be open to business and governments must facilitate that. We should keep what is good and what has worked but we need to eliminate, as soon as possible, what is counter-productive to doing business. It cannot be business as usual.”
The OAS Assistant Secretary General advised that future deals should focus more on investment agreements and the provision of services within and by Caribbean countries, rather than on traditional trading arrangements alone.