By Joy-ann Gill
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Barbados is looking to expand its trade relations with Brazil, and to this end, the government is spearheading a political/commercial mission to that country -- the largest in South America.
The one-week Mission began on Saturday and minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator Maxine McClean, is leading the delegation.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, will lead the delegation to Brazil
McClean pointed out that one of the major aims of the mission was to identify opportunities to utilise excess production capacities which exist in a number of sectors across Barbados.
“It also seeks to reaffirm Barbados’ commitment to maintaining excellent relations with Brazil on a political and diplomatic level, to facilitate the making of relevant contacts, and engagement in discussions on any areas of concern or interest in the course of relations between the two countries,” she explained.
According to her, the objectives are to showcase Barbados’ product and services offerings; enhance the foreign exchange earning capacity of local businesses; provide local manufacturers with the opportunity to establish business relations; identify possible sources of raw materials for local producers; promote this country as a tourist and business investment destination; facilitate increased market penetration through direct export, joint venture and or franchising; and further strengthen the bilateral relationship with Brazil.
Some of the main commodities Barbados exported to Brazil during 2008 to 2012 were rum and its by-products, personal effects, and vaccines for human medicine; while the main imports were plywood sheets, canned corned beef, paper/paperboard, glazed ceramic flags and medication for therapeutic use.
Brazil is seen as the most dynamic country within the Latin American region with regard to the export of services. With a population of almost 200 million and an abundance of natural resources, it is considered one of the fastest growing major economies in the world and has been ranked as the 20th leading importer of services. Barbados will therefore be seeking to tap into this area.
A number of Barbadian products and services will be on display to Brazilians in Sa᷈o Paulo and Brasilia and a number of musicians and visual artistes will also be there with a mandate to showcase our cultural offerings. In the case of goods like condiments, rum, biscuits and beverages, the BIDC will be hoping to find matches for Barbadian companies, where they can be easily placed in the market and feedback on their sustainability by representatives in Brazil.
For the NCF, this represents “a chance” to seek out business opportunities while showcasing top musicians, namely, calypsonian Stedson “Red Plastic Bag” Wiltshire; jazz singer Kellie Cadogan and steel pan player David “Ziggy” Walcott, as well as two visual artistes attached to “The Fresh Milk Project” -- Katherine Kennedy and Shanika Grimes. The latter two will remain in Brazil for a week-long residency with the Casa Tomada Project.
McClean, noting that Barbados had a range of professional services it could offer Brazil, highlighted the teaching of English as a second language as one critical area.
“I was very happy to hear the principal of the [University of the West Indies] Cave Hill Campus, Sir Hilary Beckles, speak of building on what they are currently doing. But, in addition to what the university is doing, we in the ministry have been working with the Barbados Coalition of Service Industries, along with the Barbados Community College and some private entrepreneurs who have seen opportunities there to provide services in that [area],” she said.
She stated that the FIFA World Cup 2014 and 2016 Summer Olympics would be held in Brazil and proffered the view that there would be a high demand for interpreters or persons competent in English.
“And, I would have been approached some time last year, for example, by an entrepreneur who wants to work with us to deliver those services,” she disclosed.
The minister said Barbados was also interested in capitalising on the South American country’s vast experience in sugar cane production and agriculture.
“I think what is to my mind very useful, would be technology to assist us in building our agricultural sector…because we are not only focusing on supplying them with a limited mix of products and services, but also looking at how we can enhance our manufacturing base by looking at technical support [and]… methods of production,” she indicated.
In 2010, the ministry of foreign affairs and foreign trade prepared a strategy paper on how Barbados could access trade and investment from Brazil, Costa Rica and Panama. In an effort to spur economic growth and development, while creating employment, a political/commercial mission was undertaken to Panama and Costa Rica in October 2011 and the feedback suggested it was extremely useful to those who participated.
So, with the objectives in mind, the delegation were leaving with a clear mission – to secure more business opportunities for Barbados in a country with whom it established diplomatic ties in 1971.