BELIZE CITY, Tues. Nov. 12, 2019– The Caribbean sister nations of Barbados and Belize made a significant move today to begin a partnership which will see the two CARICOM member states trade in goods and services.
To bring about the reality of trade between the two countries, the Belize Ministry of Investment, Trade and Commerce, in coordination with BELTRAIDE, teamed up with its Barbados counterpart, the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), for a Trade Expo which opened at the Best Western Biltmore Hotel this morning, featuring representatives from 10 companies in Barbados.
Minister of Investment, Trade and Commerce, Hon. Tracy Taegar-Panton, declared the Trade Expo opened.
Hon. Taegar-Panton told the gathering that for some time “we have been talking about regional integration and about creating a single market economy”, and how important regionalization is for our very survival.
“Today, we’re planting the seed, and we have to nurture that seed. You don’t plant a seed and it bears, right away. It has to be nurtured. The relationships need to be cemented. The commercial agreements need to be put in place, and it all starts today,” Minister Taegar-Panton said.
She added, “Regionalization or economic ties don’t happen if business-to-business contacts don’t happen. And so this mission is important. We buy a lot of our products outside of CARICOM, and so they are here to offer what they can offer us in terms of commodities and certainly, there will be opportunities for exchanges with their Belizean counterparts as well.”
Sharon Walton, who works in the Export & Business Development Unit of the BIDC, said it is an arm of the Barbados government that is responsible for increasing exports.
Walton said their work is primarily aimed at small businesses. “Our main revenue is tourism; it used to be manufacturing, but it is tourism. In terms of the manufacturing sector, we have been rolling out a number of programs to help to improve the sector with export being the main focus”, Walton said.
In an interview following the opening ceremony, the manager of Export and Development at BIDC, Paula Bourne, told reporters that we are one Caribbean people and we definitely feel a bond between us and all our Caribbean brothers.
“As part of CARICOM, we recognize that CARICOM is a major market in terms of trade. And so, Belize is one of the countries we are focusing on in the northern Caribbean, and we will also be doing some missions to the southern Caribbean as well. Belize is the first one that we have identified in the northern Caribbean because we believe that within CARICOM, we need to enhance our trading relations,” Bourne said.
Bourne was asked about the companies represented and the products they brought to exhibit.
She replied, “So, we have a company, COT Holdings, it’s called, and we recognize that like Barbados, you’ve recently introduced legislation to ban plastics, styrofoam and those types of products. So, we recognize that Belize is also doing that, and we’ve introduced an innovative product that is an environmentally sustainable food container.
“That company is one of those that we expect will be able to introduce those products into Belize that would be beneficial. We have a number of sauces and condiment companies, and because of our shared history and palate, we believe that some of those sauces and condiments will do well, as well. We have some printing companies that are already doing business in Belize, and are here to strengthen those linkages. There’s a new one in the market, hoping to enhance its business opportunities in Belize.
“In addition to that, we have two other service companies — one in software development, and the other is in business consulting. There are 10 companies in all.”
It was suggested to Minister Taegar-Panton that the government might think it’s a great idea to start a trade relationship with Barbados, but how do we go about convincing the Belizean people to support it?
“I think that once Belizeans are introduced to the high-quality products that are coming from Barbados, it will be very difficult for them not to buy our regional products. We promote, as you know, Belizean-made products as best as we can. We have a limited array of commodities that are on our shelves, and I think we need to do more, not only as a country, but as a region, to ensure that all our shelves, in every part of our country, have products that have the proud brand of being made in the Caribbean,” Minister Taegar-Panton replied.
Feature photo: Tracy Taegar-Panton