Home' Trinidad and Tobago Guardian : November 21st 2013 Contents Over the years trade promotion organisations (TPOs) have
been playing an important role by contributing to the distribution
of goods and services (and, in some cases, even investment) in
When we speak on this issue in the Latin American region,
we must highlight the efforts made in recent times by agencies
such as EXPORTAR (Argentina), CEPROBOL (Bolivia), APEX
(Brazil), PROCHILE (Chile), PROEXPORT (Colombia) and
PROMPEX (Peru) whose specific mandate is to promote exports
through related development tools, the opening of international
markets and initiatives in support of business management.
For the most part, the aforementioned agencies not only focus
on "increasing total volumes", but also on "diversifying" the
external sales of each country.
We must acknowledge, however, that both in the Latin American
region and the space referred to as the "Greater Caribbean" there
is an absence of real diversification of the exportable supply of
the constituent countries.
Empirical evidence suggests that sector concentration of exports,
per se, is negatively associated with economic growth. The main
• Low export diversification may translate into increased vul-
nerability to specific sector-based shocks and high volatility of
foreign currency earnings from exports and growth.
• Reduced diversification limits growth in productivity insofar
as it does not promote an increase in the efficient use of inputs
or effective learning through export activity.
The question is often is raised about the relevance of TPOs
or if we are creating unnecessary bureaucracy when comparing
their work with that undertaken by embassies and consulates of
the country in the area of trade.
The previous statements bring to mind several important ques-
Are all trade sections at diplomatic offices staffed with qualified
persons who can assume this undertaking (which is not simple
and is highly specific) of trade promotion?
Are current mechanisms for institutional co-ordination between
agencies and trade attachés adequate?
Is there a structure of incentives that effectively drives the
activity of trade promotion?
Recent studies by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
(Antonio Estevadeordal, Jessica Luna and Christian Volpe Martincus,
2007) have indicated that "export promotion agencies encourage
the expansion of exports of more differentiated goods.
Specifically, these overseas offices contribute to increasing both
the number of exported products as well as the volume of average
exports by product, particularly in the case of more complex
Cognisant of trends that impact the changing world of inter-
national trade, the Network of Trade Promotion Organisations
in Continental Spain was created in Madrid on June 17, 1999,
as part of an initiative of Spain, the Institute of External Trade
of Spain, (ICEX, acronyms in Spanish), the Spanish body responsible
for trade) and the IDB. The aim was to create a space for discussion
towards a deepening of relations among member organisations,
the discussion of technical issues of common interest and the
exchange of experiences and tools for successful trade promo-
Since its creation, several meetings have been held among its
members to examine actions taken to facilitate the advancement
of joint activities to promote business among entrepreneurs from
member countries: Argentina, Bolivia, Brazil, Chile, Colombia,
Costa Rica, Cuba, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador,
Guatemala, Honduras, Mexico, Nicaragua, Panama, Paraguay,
Peru, Portugal, Puerto Rico, Spain, Uruguay and Venezuela.
The bodies that form part of this initiative---whose characteristics
vary from country to country---are responsible for spearheading
action to promote exports, attract investment, and provide business
development services in support of globalisation.
Since the very inception of the Association of Caribbean States
(ACS), the founding heads of state and government agreed that
in order to strengthen the broader economic space for trade and
investment, it was also necessary to create a fora for businessmen
and trade promotion agencies in the Caribbean, where knowledge
and business opportunities would be exchanged that would con-
tribute to the emergence of a business culture within the Greater
This is how, for some 11 years, the ACS has been promoting
exchanges among businessmen in the Greater Caribbean through
its business fora and follow-up to the Red Interamericana de
Promoción de las Exportaciones consisting of counterpart agencies
responsible for these functions in each of its member states.
Recently, Red Ibero invited the ACS to attend its 15th ordinary
meeting held in Bogota, Colombia, on October 31 and November
1 this year under the auspices of PROEXPORT Colombia. As part
of its objectives, this meeting sought to include the ACS in the
work that has been undertaken within Latin America.
After examining the characteristics of both spaces and identifying
the critical need to join forces between both regions, Red Ibero
agreed to host a meeting with TPOs from the Greater Caribbean
and the Central American Alliance of Export Promotion Agencies
(ACAPEX, acronyms in Spanish) so as to jointly design strategies
and, at the same time, share with the Caribbean network of TPOs
tools and initiatives developed (that is, best practice in the field),
thereby stimulating the growth of exports between both hemi-
spheres on the continent and their involvement in international
Among those present at the meeting were María Claudia
Lacouture (president of PROEXPORT Colombia), César Freund
(current president of Red Ibero and head of the international
cooperation division of PROMPERU) and Alberto Durán, ACS
director of trade and external economic relations.
At the ACS, we reaffirm the importance of exchanges between
shared spaces in the Caribbean and Latin American region and
are assured that this collaboration will contribute to strengthening
the trade capacity in the region -- a requirement for increasing
and diversifying the goods and services produced in the Greater
Alberto Durán Espaillat is the trade director of the Association
of Caribbean States (ACS). Any correspondence or feedback
can be sent to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Association of Caribbean States
In a commentary on the statement by St
Lucia Prime Minister Dr Kenny Anthony that
there is a grave economic crisis gnawing away
at Caribbean countries and "governments are
busy looking inward rather than pursuing a
Caribbean solution", I drew attention to several
possible areas of practical action that govern-
ments of the Caribbean Community (Caricom)
could take immediately.
One of the suggested actions is to revisit a
paper entitled, "Re-energising Caricom", that
leaders set aside at a special retreat in May
2011 in Guyana.
Although the retreat was called to discuss
the "way forward for Caricom" against a back-
ground in which, just three months before,
leaders themselves had acknowledged "a loss
of the momentum with regard to the regional
integration agenda", they decided to "pause"
development of a Caribbean Single Economy.
What does the "Re-energising Caricom"
paper say? Authored by Prof Norman Girvan,
economist Havelock Brewster and others, it
covered a number of critical areas that have
been repeatedly discussed by leaders but never
implemented. But, it is the paper s proposals
to prioritise the benefits of economic integra-
tion that are urgent for governments to con-
sider, and it is these that I précis below for
the information of a wide Caribbean audi-
The paper proposed that revitalising efforts
be focused on three sectors: a regional agri-
cultural and food security programme, a
regional maritime transport programme and
a regional renewable energy programme.
On agriculture and food, the paper pointed
out that in 2009, import of food products by
Caricom countries amounted to US$3.5 billion,
having increased 350 per cent over the period
2000-2009. Yet, on a regional scale, there is
no shortage of fertile land and non-saline
water. Huge opportunities are available for
pooling these resources with the aim of sat-
isfying a substantial portion of regional
demand, and supplying extra-regional mar-
On regional maritime transport, which has
been the bane of moving agricultural and man-
ufactured products around the region, the
paper noted that Caribbean regional maritime
transport services are both inadequate and
very expensive compared with other parts of
Acknowledging that substantial investments
are required, the paper emphasised that such
investments needs to be organised around a
holistic approach to expanding and mod-
ernising maritime assets, creating larger scale,
specialised vessels, and upgrading seaports
within a regionally harmonised, regulatory,
legal and policy framework.
On the huge sums of money spent on the
importation of oil and gas by every Caricom
country, except T&T, the paper proposed a
regional renewable energy production pro-
Pointing out that imports of petroleum (oils
and oils obtained from bituminous minerals
crude) amounted in 2008 to about US$6.0
billion, it argued that there is a huge resource
base in the region that can support substantial
production of renewable energy: solar, wind,
hydro, geothermal, biofuels. Not only are there
opportunities for sharing renewable energy
resources and technology but also for inter-
connectivity among interested member states.
What is required to achieve these goals that
would save every Caricom country tens of
millions of dollars every year is a regional
investment programme. Governments would
have to take joint action on fiscal incentives,
harmonization of the legal basis for the sale
of excess power to the main power grids serving
the region, training, standards and testing.
The big questions would be how to finance
the investment programme and how to imple-
ment these three crucial initiatives?
The paper provides a very practical answer:
the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has
an explicit mandate to promote regional inte-
gration. The CDB, in collaboration with other
Caricom agencies and the private sector, should
be brought together in the form of a public-
private partnership to devise a programme to
attract local and foreign investment in these
potential growth sectors.
Setting out a structure for such a partnership,
the paper suggested it should be composed
of the president of the CDB as chair, appro-
priate private sector representatives and other
With regard to external assistance, the cre-
ation of such a joint commission should find
favour with donor agencies and governments
particularly because it will be a body com-
prising both the public and private sectors and
would be subject to the international best
practices" rules that guide the CDB. An impor-
tant effect of such a joint approach would be
support for projects that promote new invest-
Another benefit would be that the blessing
of official donor agencies would encourage
additional financing in loans and equity from
the external commercial market.
It would be necessary for Caricom govern-
ments to agree with the donors, such as the
European Union, that contribute to regional
co-operation and integration programmes to
co-ordinate and focus such regional pro-
grammes, under the umbrella of the proposed
Joint. Such an agreement would not affect
contributions to individual national pro-
Those basically are the proposals contained
in the "Re-energising Caricom" paper. No
Caricom country would lose by its implemen-
tation and every Caricom country would gain
from reduced costs for food, oil and gas. They
would also gain from structured, regular and
reliable maritime transportation for agricultural
and manufactured goods and, therefore, an
increase in inter-regional trade.
Additionally, both in the build-out of pro-
grammes in the crucial areas of food produc-
tion, renewable energy and maritime transport,
and in their eventual operations, existing busi-
nesses would expand, new businesses created,
and new employment generated.
One blueprint for using regional tools to
achieve national growth exists, in the "Re-
energising Caricom" paper.
What is required is the political will to do
it. The writer is a consultant, senior research
fellow at London University and former
NOVEMBER 2013 • WEEK THREE www.guardian.co.tt BUSINESS GUARDIAN
COMMENTARY | BG25
Trade promotion bodies work to diversify exports
Addressing the region's grave economic crisis
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