WASHINGTON, D.C.: The Services of the Caribbean (SOCA), a coalition of Caribbean private sector organizations, has been launched to develop, design, and implement a policy and business advocacy campaign to promote the enhancement of the United States Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI-CBERA) program with an expansion into the services sector.
SOCA is led by the Trinidad & Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI) and the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica. The coalition aims to advance new trade and investment opportunities between the United States and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) services sectors and industries.
“SOCA membership will be open to U.S. and CARICOM business and organizations committed to advancing greater services trade and investment between these markets,” said SOCA co-chair, Nirad Tewarie, the TTCSI chief executive officer, at the coalition’s launch last week. “While the CBI regime is focused solely on goods, paradoxically, CARICOM countries have much greater potential for trade in the services yet the CBI does not cover services. The economies of many CBERA countries have become more oriented to international trade in services, rendering CBERA trade preferences for exports of goods less relevant to their economic future.”
Tewarie said the 20th Report on CBERA also highlighted that CBERA related investment has been low for the production and export of CBERA-eligible goods and that investment has focused as much, or more, on services than on exporting CBERA goods.
“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 said.
The SOCA launch was held during the Caribbean-Central American Action’s 37th Annual Conference on the Caribbean and Central America in Washington D.C.
“This collaboration between these business organizations in support of Caribbean economic development and growth is a clear sign of the importance of this initiative for the business sector of our region which is already predominantly services-centered,” said Becky Stockhausen, Executive Director of AmCham Jamaica.
Stockhausen referred to her organisation’s involvement in lobbying efforts for the original CBI legislation and success in achieving the passage of legislation by the U.S. Congress to support a crime reduction initiative led by the AmCham Jamaica to reduce crime.
“I mention this story to emphasize that sometimes what may seem to be impossible can be accomplished, and that the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica is excited and inspired to work with our colleagues at TTCSI, AMCHAM Trinidad & Tobago, Manchester Trade, and others who will join our coalition to achieve another lofty goal – one through which we can assist our companies to grow and prosper, to attract new local and foreign investments,” she said.
Stephen Lande, president of the U.S.-based business advisory firm, Manchester Trade Limited Inc., said that with the region’s economies already over 70 per cent concentrated in the services sector, “it is a necessity of trade and business policy to upgrade and expand the original CBI which was centered on goods and make the CBI more relevant to the services reality of US-CARICOM trade”.
President of the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America (AACCLA), Nicholas Galt, said the new initiative was long overdue and would help companies expand into the U.S.
“Although I export to more than 20 countries, I would like to do more business in the U.S. and I am confident that this initiative can help,” he said. “I want to therefore endorse this and offer the full support of the AACCLA.”