GEORGETOWN, Guyana -- The director general of the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) Directorate, Ivan Ogando Lora, has expressed satisfaction with recent progress made by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) to bring on stream its market intelligence platform.
When it begins operations, the platform is expected to be of great benefit to those regional entrepreneurs and enterprises seeking to leverage the CARIFORUM- European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in their bid to penetrate the EU market.
Ogando was responding to word from David Gomez, head of the market intelligence portfolio at Caribbean Export, that the agency is poised to move the platform into a “testing phase, so as to work out any kinks, refine it and take concrete steps to put the pieces in place to launch it.”
According to Gomez, testing of the portal is to take place from next month, with the launch expected by latest first quarter of 2013. The Agency’s market intelligence initiative is being rolled out as part of its 10th EDF programming.
Gomez unveiled these plans on the heels of the 2nd CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum, which was held under the auspices of Caribbean Export – in collaboration with the CARIFORUM Directorate, amongst others -- earlier this month under the theme ‘Making the CARIFORUM-EU EPA Work’. The business forum facilitated multi-stakeholder dialogue on policy ideas and partnership opportunities with respect to the EPA. It also helped to chart the way forward for interested regional private sector operators to better position themselves to take strategic advantage of the agreement.
There was wide agreement at the business forum that gaps and deficiencies in respect of market intelligence were “holding back” regional firms from effectively penetrating the complex, highly competitive EU market. The consensus at the meeting was that if such constraints were effectively addressed, regional firms could be provided “the edge that they need in identifying opportunities and securing a foothold in that market.”
The executive director of Caribbean Export, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, called attention to the agency’s efforts to be a forceful catalyst in enhancing regional market intelligence capacity. The agency’s soon to be launched market intelligence platform is a core component of these efforts.
Gomez has said of the forthcoming market intelligence platform, “it will be an integral part of a regional system.” He lamented that some have misconstrued the initiative solely as a database. “In fact, the web-based portal is to be just one aspect of the system we are putting in place,” he said. “The objective, in this regard, is to enable private sector operators to manipulate qualitative and quantitative information, in order for them to glean better insight into the markets that they are trying to access,” Gomez underlined. Firms are expected to access the portal.
So too are business support organizations (BSOs), so that they can in turn provide enhanced trade information services to their stakeholders. Gomez underscored that another crucial part of how the system is expected to function is by way of the establishment and consolidation of a regional trade information network operating at the national level across the CARIFORUM states, which will involve BSOs (spanning goods and services), statistical offices, amongst others.
Going forward, Caribbean Export’s market intelligence chief said, “In putting the network together and for it to operate as it should, building and sustaining relationships across the various network actors will be key to strengthening practical cooperation. Each actor will play a role, and synergies must be taken advantage of if the network is to operate seamlessly. A lot is riding on the efficacious functioning of the network, not the least of which is effectively catering to firms’ export strategies/interests and, by extension, the economic fortunes of CARIFORUM states. Market intelligence, then, becomes everybody’s business.”
He also pointed to a second issue that Caribbean Export is seized of, training. “Training is foremost in our minds, as it is vital to equipping frontline actors to effectively utilize the data. Caribbean Export will be aggressively rolling out training activities across the Region in the months to come,” Gomez emphasized.
The portal’s clearinghouse/‘one-stop shop’ functionality is a key selling point for the initiative, which is to draw on databases such as those of the International Trade Centre (ITC), the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD), and the World Trade Organization (WTO). In the medium to long-term CARIFORUM BSOs will add to the uniquely regional/national data content of the platform, in so far as they are also expected – working with others in the trade information network -- to gather relevant data and populate the medium.
The fifteen signatory Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific (CARIFORUM) states to the EPA are the independent CARICOM member states and the Dominican Republic.