TRADE Minister Paula Gopee-Scoon urged manufacturers across the Caribbean to pool resources for their mutual benefit, addressing the virtual signing ceremony of the Caribbean Manufacturers Association (CMA) on Wednesday.
“These are very difficult times. Foreign direct investment is reducing.
“For our survival we need investment by our private sector.”
She said moves to improve manufacturing in the region were heartening and must be supported by Caribbean governments.
“There are lots of manufacturing opportunities in the region but we must increase our interconnectedness.”
Gopee-Scoon said a pooling of resources could benefit regional manufacturers, boost the regional value chain and improve the region's production base.
Saying the Caribbean offers “endless opportunities,” she also urged better linkages between the agriculture, manufacturing, and retail and distribution sectors.
She called for the creation of a list of the raw material needs/inputs of regional manufacturers plus a platform to facilitate the purchase of these items.
The minister also urged the promotion of both horizontal and vertical diversification in such businesses.
Gopee-Scoon suggested a focus on promoting Caribbean niche products such as cocoa. She urged attention on the food and beverage, agriculture and fashion sectors.
She called for regional manufacturers to synergise their efforts at regulations, processes, technology and marketing.
“We are excited about the Caribbean brand,” Gopee-Scoon said. "Let’s all celebrate.”
She said she looked forward to a harmonious relationship between business and government. Inviting manufacturers to contact her directly outside of the traditional steps, she said, “Call and ask.”
From Barbados, Minister in the Ministry of Foreign Trade Sandra Husbands told the meeting that while 40-60 per cent of trade in the world takes place within particular free trade areas, in the Caribbean this figure is only 13 per cent. She urged the region to step up its production and manufacturing, so as to bring prosperity, security and resilience. Husbands said in the region the covid19 pandemic had taken a toll by way of problems of shortages, shipping and value-chain issues.
Guyanese Minister of Tourism, Industry and Commerce Oneidge Waldron hailed the association as a regional voice.
“There is wisdom in the counsel of others. The CMA will be a think-tank. You’ll achieve great things as a body.”
Saying mining, agriculture and tourism have all been contributing to Guyana’s economy, she invited listeners to consider investing in Guyana. “We are open for business.”
Jamaica’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and Trade Kamina Johnson-Smith called for more regional co-operation on agriculture and food security, and reckoned the association could address production-related challenges faced by the region’s manufacturers. “This is where the work starts,” she said.
Barbados Manufacturers Association president Robert Noel said the CMA has identified areas of concern and was working on a best plan for the region.
Saying one goes fast if travelling alone but goes far if travelling together, he said, “We’ll be working together as a team.”
Guyana Manufacturers Association head Ramsay Ali said, “We know what the issues are. I’m sure we can deal with them in such a way that all our territories and all our people will benefit.”
Jamaica Manufacturers Association deputy president Jerome Mills, in reference to the economic fallout from covid19, said, “We are all looking for ways to pivot and recover.” He reckoned the CMA could accelerate regional growth by all members working together. St Lucia Manufacturers Association head Marguerite Desir said manufacturers in the region must come together to learn from each other and build together, even as they all face the biggest competitor, that is, the interests from outside of the Caricom region.
TT Manufacturers Association head Franka Costelloe noted the Caribbean’s culture, landscape, talent and natural resources, and said the CMA can promote growth and connectivity towards strengthening the collective Caribbean economy.