The 3rd CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum opened in Montego Bay, Jamaica Wednesday with calls for Caribbean countries to seize new opportunities offered by globalisation and improved access for the region to international markets.
The mood of optimism about opportunities for Caribbean producers, many of whom attended the conference, was summed up by Sharon Ffolkes Abrahams, State Minister of Jamaica, who delivered a keynote speech on behalf of the Jamaican Prime Minister, Portia Simpson Miller.
“I believe we can make winning deals at CARIFORUM,” she said, adding that Jamaica was keen to look “beyond the hemisphere to trade with the EU,” which is now “a major trading partner and grantor of aid.”
Jesus OrúsBáguena, Head of Cooperation in the Delegation of the EU to Jamaica, Belize, The Bahamas, Turks and Caicos Islands, and Cayman Islands spoke of the “substantial opportunities,” both for Caribbean businesses and for ordinary citizens, in a closer relationship between the region and the EU. He described the Economic Partnership Agreement between the EU and CARIFORUM as a “state of the art highway offering substantial trade opportunities to access the EU market.”
Since the signing of the CARIFORUM – EU partnership agreement in 2008, the EU has provided over 165 million euros in development assistance, which has strengthened regional authorities, civil society and the private sector, expanding the scope for cooperation.
“It is my hope and expectation that, with the business reforms being undertaken, and more expected to come, with donor support and with your audacity, we will see a more diversified and competitive Caribbean economy, to the benefit of all its citizens.”
The conference provided an opportunity to showcase some of the Caribbean’s diverse range of top quality products – herbs, spices and cocoa from the agricultural sector, as well new opportunities provided by the region’s rich cultural heritage, particularly in the music sector.