By Sheena Forde-Craigg
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados – Building partnerships, e-commerce, setting standards, and a CARICOM trade model were some of the suggestions for the way forward in attaining regional trade success.
Minister of state in foreign trade and business, Sandra Husbands, noted these possible solutions to competitive and successful trade for the Caribbean region while delivering remarks at the opening ceremony of the Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) Chamber of Industry and Commerce (CIC) Trade Mission to Barbados, at the Accra Beach Resort and Spa, Rockley, Christ Church, on Thursday.
Husbands said some of the challenges which the region faces include climate change, war, high cost of fuel, global evolution of digital trade, e-commerce; logistics; regulations and standards.
The minister of state pointed out that in order for Caribbean countries to address the challenges affecting trade and sustainability of regional trading they must strengthen ties, build partnerships and take advantage of the resources in their own backyard.
“We are 15 CARICOM member states, all at different levels of resources, at different stages of economic growth.… To forge a path for prosperity for all of our people, we will not be able to do that as individual businesses, as individual households, [and] as individual countries, we have to do this together.
“So, our collective response as a region is going to be imperative if we’re going to create prosperity and secure the well-being of our region. So, it means we have to pool resources; we have to pool our expertise; we have to merge our advocacy efforts because CARICOM can make a distinct impact in helping us build out initiatives.”
Husbands noted that over the years, e-commerce had grown rapidly and had evolved substantially, citing Amazon and Alibaba as examples, and told business persons they must incorporate e-commerce into their “brick and mortar” businesses because future consumption and access to products and services can no longer rely on just that one approach.
Minister Husbands stressed:
“We need to be able to do two things. We now have to turn the bricks-and-mortar approach into a retail sensory experience. So, it has to go beyond being able to walk in somewhere and buy a product…. And we must have access to, and be able to use big data, and analytics coming from that data, to find the ways in which we are going to put ourselves where we can control and influence the algorithms.
“Because this is what will determine who is going to be the winners and losers in the global consumption game. If we are merely passengers in the digital world and not in control of those key things – the data, the analytics, and the algorithms – we are going to find that the consumption patterns will bypass us and people will be buying from everybody else in the world except the Caribbean.”
Trinidad and Tobago CIC president, Kiran Maharaj; Caribbean Export Development Agency Manager, Competitiveness and Export Promotion, Dr Damie Sinanan; CARICOM Secretariat programme manager, CARICOM Single Market and Economy Unit, Titus Preville; and acting director of the Barbados National Standards Institution, Hadyn Rhynd, all agreed with minister Husbands’ proposed solutions.
They also suggested that there was a need for the diversification of economies, doing business differently, and sustainable business practices.