By BIDC/Carol Gaskin
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) — Barbados is expanding its trade reach into non-English speaking markets.
A multi-sectoral trade mission led by the Barbados Investment & Development Corporation (BIDC) and the Barbados Coalition of Services Industries (BCSI), has unveiled significant opportunities for trade and investment between Barbados and the islands of Martinique and Guadeloupe.
According to the BIDC’s Director of Export Promotion and Development, Sonja Trotman, a total of 16 companies participated in the venture, some having secured direct and immediate business opportunities and others having forged relationships and exchanged dialogue in pursuit of strengthening commercial ties.
"Representing firms from Barbados’ construction, food and beverages, apparel and accessories, information communication technology, cultural industries and financial services sectors, the group reported positive outcomes and high-potential prospects for doing business with the French territories.
"They were able to initiate discussions with prospective business partners, while showcasing their product and service offerings during the pre-arranged business-to-business (B2B) meetings and networking receptions," Trotman said.
Approximately 100 such B2B meetings were facilitated during the November 17-24 visit, through the efforts of consulting firms Nouvelle Dynamique Martiniquaise (NOUDYMA) and La Tribu, who were contracted to organise the business matchmaking and mission logistics in Martinique and Guadeloupe, respectively.
Discussions centred mainly on the efforts needed to conquer language and cultural barriers, as well as initiatives which could be explored to build strategic alliances, facilitate increased bi-lateral trade and investment, and support cultural exchanges between Barbados and the French Caribbean.
Following on the success of the mission, it is envisioned that Barbados, Martinique and Guadeloupe will establish wider country-level cooperation, beyond increased market penetration and enhanced business linkages. Both the BIDC and the BCSI are committed to active follow-up and engagement of the participants to ensure that the initial in-market discussions translate into successful projects.
The presence of the Barbadian delegation attracted much media attention. On arrival, delegates were welcomed by representatives from the Regional Council, the Chambers of Commerce, business support organisations and the business community in both territories, all expressing a keen interest and desire to enhance commercial relations with Barbados.
Martinique and Guadeloupe emerged key markets of interest to exporters within CARICOM, following the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the European Union (EU), of which France and, by extension, the French Caribbean territories are signatories.
Though characterised by small manufacturing and minimal exporting bases, it is believed that these relatively untapped markets, with populations estimated at approximately 400 000 each, hold much potential for select products and services niches.
Barbados exports just over $1 million in goods annually to Guadeloupe and about the same to Martinique. These comprise mainly printed labels, perfumes, insecticides, unsweetened biscuits and liqueurs.