Five members of the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) and its sub-regional office in Santo Domingo received training from the International Trade Centre, Geneva on their Benchmarking Assessment Tool and methodology last week. Benchmarking provides Trade Promotion Organizations (TPOs) an independent and objective assessment of their institution, its efficiency, and its performance in relation to best business practices of TPOs across the world. The assessment identifies areas for improvement through the use of a full set of benchmark measures developed specifically for TPOs by focusing on the key factors of organizational performance.

Caribbean Export’s Manager for Trade and Export Development, Mr David Gomez, indicated that assessments were an important part of a new approach to enhancing the capacity of TPOs and BSOs across the region to more effectively meet the export development needs of the private sector, particularly small and medium enterprises (SMEs). According to Gomez the assessment is “…only one step in the process of BSO capacity building being conducted by Caribbean Export under the 10th EDF Regional Private Sector Development Programme, and it also involves an institutional mapping component to help identify and confirm the landscape for trade support agencies at the national level.” The results of the assessments and institutional mappings will be useful for helping agencies strengthen their organizational mandates, remove programmatic over-lapping; and clarify their services offerings to ensure that they are meeting the needs of the private sector. In short Gomez stated, “…the programme is one which on one hand should help to bestow organizational relevance to TPOs and BSOs as it relates to the export development needs of the Caribbean region and is expected to usher in a new era of competency which should translate into higher capacity for providing export related support programmes including helping enterprises take advantage of trade agreements such as the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreements; and on the other hand will help Caribbean Export to provide a more robust and effective toolbox for TPO and BSO strengthening and development.”

Also participating in the training programme are representatives from TPOs in Jamaica (JAMPRO) and St Lucia (OPSR). JAMPRO and OPSR were both part of the 9th TPO World Congress held in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia in October, 2012 where the ITCs Benchmarking Assessment Tool was introduced and had requested at that time that the programme be implemented with their respective agencies. Given the fact that a number of other business support organizations (BSOs) across the region also play important trade support functions Caribbean Export had requested consideration for a couple of BSOs be included in the training to help gauge the extent to which the assessment could be used with these types of agencies. Consequently, the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC) and the Barbados Coalition of Services Industries (BCSI) were invited to participate in the 3-day training programme being held at Caribbean Export’s offices in Warrens, Barbados.

Mr Jose Prunello, Senior Advisor at ITC for the TPO Assessment and Benchmarking Programme noted that this was “…the first time that the programme was being considered for roll out on a regional basis.” The initiative has hailed as one “whose time had come” by Mrs Berletta Forrester of JAMPRO who commended Caribbean Export on the insight for introducing the programme to the region and signaled JAMPRO’s appreciation for being able to participate alongside Caribbean Export in the training, although their own assessment would take place at a later date (most likely in the second quarter of 2013). For the BCSI which is in the process of setting out its strategic programme of work for the next 3-5 years the programme helps to provide much needed structure and clarity to what has to go into the considerations.

Following the three day training programme a ‘coached assessment’ of the agency will be completed using the tool and methodology with the results used to strengthen Caribbean Export’s own strategic planning and efforts at institutional capacity building. Representatives from both agencies (ITC and Caribbean Export) are expected to meet to agree on a design and pilot programme for 2013 taking a number of unique situations in to consideration such as the region’s sub-regional grouping of the OECS and the fact that there are English, Spanish, and French speaking countries within the CARIFORUM.  The programme is currently not available in Dutch and a wider roll-out of the programme based on the results of the pilot is expected to be implemented in 2014 and 2015.

Caribbean Export is currently completing negotiations on an MOU with the International Trade Centre, Geneva which will see cooperation between the two agencies on a number of other areas including on regional workshops for trade information services; trade advocacy;  and hosting of a first ever Caribbean Export Development Forum (CEDF) in March of 2013.

For more information about the Benchmarketing Assessment Tool implementation please contact David Gomez, Trade and Export Development Manager, Caribbean Export, at +1 246 436 0578 or email [email protected]