JIS News

Story Highlights

  • Services of the Caribbean (SOCA) will focus on advancing new trade and investment opportunities between the US and CARICOM.
  • The CBI regime will incorporate services for which CARICOM countries have much greater potential.
  • Significant planning and discussion has also been undertaken to formulate a White Paper on the subject, and a work-plan developed for the next 12 months.

A Caribbean private sector coalition is piloting an initiative aimed at facilitating trade in services between the United States (US) and regional countries, under the exisiting Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) preference programme.

Aptly named Services of the Caribbean (SOCA), the initiative will focus on advancing  new trade and investment opportunities between the US’ and CARICOM’s services industry.

The undertaking is being led and co-chaired by representatives of the American Chamber of Commerce in Jamaica (AMCHAM), and Trinidad and Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI).

SOCA was launched at the offices of the Organization of American States (OAS) in Washington, D.C., on November 21 during the Caribbean-Central American Action’s 37th Annual Conference. The launch was jointly organized with the OAS and United States Chamber of Commerce.

Chief Executive Officer of TTCSI, and one of SOCA’s Chairpersons, Nirad Tewarie, who spoke at the launch, said membership to the programme will be open to US and CARICOM businesses and organizations “committed to advancing greater services trade and investment between these markets.”

He pointed out that the CBI regime currently focuses solely on trade in goods, and cited the need for the incorporation of services “for which CARICOM countries have much greater potential.”

Mr. Tewarie pointed out that consequent on the Caribbean Basin Economic Recovery Act of 1983 (CBERA) focus on goods, regional states have engaged in trade in services in the wider global market. This, he added, renders CBERA trade preferences for goods exports “less relevant to their economic future.”

Additionally, he said the 20th Report on CEBRA also highlighted that investment for the production and export of CBERA eligible goods “has been low”, with more focus being placed on services.

“The purpose of the SOCA initiative and the call for the inclusion of services in the CBI regime is, therefore, premised on the strategic development goals of the region, and the realities of the Caribbean economies,” he underscored.

AMCHAM’s Executive Director, Becky Stockhausen, SOCA’s other  Co-Chairperson , said the initiative “is a clear sign of (its) importance… for the business sector of our region, which is already predominantly services-centered.”

President of Washington, D.C.-based business advisory firm, Manchester Trade Limited Inc., which has endorsed SOCA, Stephen Lande, said the fact that regional countries record service trade activities totaling some 70 per cent, necessitates revisions to the original CBI provisions to make the facility “more relevant to the services reality of US-CARICOM trade.”

Executive Chairman of the Caribbean-based information and communication technology company, TSL Group, Nicholas Galt, contended that “this (SOCA) initiative is long overdue and will help my company to expand into the US.”

While noting that his entity has engagements with more than 20 other countries, Mr. Galt indicated that “I would like to do more business in the US, and I am confident that this initiative can help.”

In this regard, he gave the initiative his company’s full endorsement and pledged the support of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America (AACCLA), for which he is President.

Also attending the launch were: Trinidad and Tobago’s Trade, Industry and Investment Minister, Vasant Bharath; the twin island republic’s Ambassador to the United States, Dr Neil Parsan; President of the Caribbean Central American Action, Cornelius B. Prior; President of AMCHAM Trinidad and Tobago, Hugh Howard; and the United States Chamber of Commerce’s Director of the Americas, Jose Raul Perales, all of whom endorsed SOCA.

Already, SOCA has formally submitted its position on the matter of trade in services to the office of the United States Trade Representative (USTR). Significant planning and discussion has also been undertaken to formulate a White Paper on the subject, and a work-plan developed for the next 12 months.

Both SOCA Co-Chairs have met with key stakeholders in the US for discussions, including the Department of Commerce, USTR, US Coalition of Services Industries, and Senatorial staffers. The feedback from these engagements has been described as “quite positive”, with the stage set for further deliberations on specific proposals.

This initiative will be managed by the TTCSI Secretariat and executed by Manchester Trade Limited, under the auspices of TTCSI and AMCHAM Jamaica.