Published on Wednesday, July 30, 2008
Source: Caribbean Net News
Touting the benefits Florida business leaders could derive from investing in the Caribbean, Organization of American States (OAS) Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin argued that the region’s trading arrangements offer prospects for expanded market for their products and services. Calling the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) the most successful integration system after the European Union, Ramdin highlighted the Single Market to enhance business promotion and entrepreneurship. He said the Caribbean Court of Justice as CARICOM’s highest court of appeal “is another significant step in providing judicial certainty to individuals, business community and nations.”
OAS Assistant Secretary General Albert Ramdin. OAS PHOTOThe State of Florida needs to unite on an agenda for the Caribbean. “It is not only in the interest of the Caribbean, but also in your own interest,” Ramdin declared at the weekend, in his keynote address to the second annual meeting of the World Affairs Council and the World Trade Center of Tampa Bay, Florida. City of Tampa mayor Pam Iorio introduced the OAS Assistant Secretary General to the guests.
“For the State of Florida in general and for Tampa in particular, given the proximity to the Caribbean, it is important to strengthen political and economic relations and to work towards a comprehensive agenda of collaboration, not only in trade, but also in culture, education, and other areas,” said Ramdin. “There are opportunities, but if these are not used or if the relationship deteriorates because of economic problems, there will be also risk.”
His address was entitled “New Trends in the Americas: Focus on the Caribbean” and it was delivered at an event where Rick Murrell, Chairman and President of Tropical Shipping Lines, received this year’s International Commerce Award for outstanding contribution to promoting international trade. Hailing the honoree, Ramdin also cited Murrell’s “important contribution to the economies of the Caribbean.”
Ramdin noted CARICOM free trade agreements with the Dominican Republic, Costa Rica, Colombia, Venezuela and Cuba, and negotiations for preferential trading with Canada to become a full-fledged free trade agreement. He added that a longstanding preferential economic trade agreement with the European Union has been re-negotiated into an Economic Partnership Agreement. In addition to proximity, the OAS Assistant Secretary General said the Caribbean region offers potential Florida investors advantages of language, comparable legal systems and relative peace.
Overall, the investment climate is generally an inviting one, he stated. “Taking advantage of these programs could be a good win-win for Tampa and the Caribbean in bringing home the advantages of an integrated market with commercial links and new personal relationships on which to build a long-term, stable market,” said Ramdin. “Tourism, health services, value-added agriculture, high-tech services, financial services; energy products, and cultural items for the large Caribbean diaspora represent key sectors for development in the Caribbean,”
Ramdin told the business leaders. “Eco-tourism and cultural tourism are on the rise. Agriculture is being expanded for high-value products such as cacao, coffee, limes, mangoes and coconuts for export," he explained.Major donors such as the World Bank, the US Agency for International Development, the Canadian International Development Agency, the British Department for International Development and others are helping to fund programs to upgrade the Caribbean’s trading infrastructure, Ramdin stressed. “This creates another type of business opportunity for companies such as those you have here in Tampa.”
These donors will be giving the Caribbean special attention in the build up to the Fifth Summit of the Americas, which will be held in April 2009 in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago. This will be the first meeting of the new US president with his 33 counterparts in the Americas and an excellent opportunity for the launch of new programs to assist the Caribbean. “Those companies who have thought ahead and have products and services ready to link with the region will have a jump on the competition and be able to take advantage of this “tipping point” in the Caribbean.”
Ramdin accentuated the OAS’s activities, telling his guests that the organization’s “ultimate objective… is to promote and contribute to an environment of peace and stability, so as to create conditions for social and economic development in the Western Hemisphere.” He identified as central issues for the hemisphere the consolidation of democracies that respond effectively to citizens; maintaining fiscal responsibility and economic stability; improving transparency; fighting entrenched poverty as well as inequality; significantly reducing crime; improving the environment; and creating opportunities for young people to thrive.