The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) convened the 9th Meeting of the CARIFORUM, French Caribbean Outermost regions (FCORs) and EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Caribbean, Task Force on Trade and Investment on the island of Grand Cayman on June 26 and 27, 2014.

In his opening remarks David Gomez, Manager, Trade and Export Development, Caribbean Export quoted the American industrialist and founder of the Ford Motor Company who once said, “Coming together is a beginning; keeping together is progress; working together is success.”  The statement set the tone for the next two days of high level meetings of CARIFORUM, FCOR and OCT heads who have come together to move ahead on the decisions agreed at the 8th meeting and discuss the status of the Financial Services Sector in the Caribbean and the recommendations of the comprehensive study on the Technical Barriers to Trade (TBTs) and other technical requirements that affect CARIFORUM Exports to the FCORs.

This meeting comes directly after the Agency successfully hosted a Business Forum for private sector firms from the aforementioned territories in an effort to stimulate greater regional trade on June 25, 2014.  Despite their being part of the wider Caribbean region and the existence of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), trade and economic cooperation between the French Caribbean Outermost regions (FCORs) and EU Overseas Countries and Territories (OCTs) in the Caribbean and CARIFORUM territories remains under-developed. The exception to this is Trinidad and Tobago who exports large quantities of energy and energy related products to FCORs and OCTs.

Private sector firms were able to discuss the issues that they faced with regional trade and sought to develop business linkages.   The Agency also explored the establishment of a Technical Management Unit (TMU) to assist exporters from CARIFORUM States that are interested in entering the French Caribbean Market as well as to assist French Caribbean Exporters with market information on the CARIFORUM region. While a number of Business Support Organizations (BSOs) in the region have already started the process of assisting firms to export to the French Caribbean, Caribbean Export is also aware that they face challenges in doing so.

The TMU is pegged to help address issues such as the provision of market research and intelligence in doing business in the FCORs; assist with meeting language and cultural requirements; identify key contacts and the coordination of trade fairs and market visits to facilitate buyer/seller contacts.

Additionally, it is important to note that whilst the issues of facilitating trade is required other barriers to trade such as costly air and sea transportation and the taxes such as Octroi de Mer that have direct implications on the ability of CARIFORM firms to trade in the French Caribbean must also be addressed in order to further advance in true intra-regional trade for the benefit of the entire Caribbean.