Chambers of Commerce drawn from all corners of the Caribbean have launched a network to better support intra-regional trade, to share best practices, and to contribute to regional policy formation for the benefit of MSMEs. The network, known as CARICHAM, was launched in early April in Barbados, and comprises 16 chambers of commerce from Antigua & Barbuda, Barbados; Belize; Cuba; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana; Haiti; Jamaica; Martinique; St. Kitts & Nevis; St. Vincent & the Grenadines; St. Lucia; Trinidad & Tobago (the TTCIC); Trinidad & Tobago (the Energy Chamber); and Suriname.
Chambers of commerce in several other states and territories have also signalled their interest in joining the network.
Speaking at the launch ceremony, which saw the representatives of the assembled chambers signing on to a Memorandum of Understanding to create CARICHAM, the Hon. Sandra Husbands M.P., Minister of Foreign Trade in the Barbadian Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, lauded the formation of the network, noting that CARICHAM carve out a role “as a powerful lobby and partner in shaping and improving how the Caribbean Single Market & Economy (CSME) will work” and thus become “a powerful transformational tool of Caribbean fortunes”.
It is a sentiment shared by the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC). According to JCC President Lloyd Distant Jr., inasmuch as most of the membership of Caribbean chambers are MSMEs, functioning in relatively small economies, it is crucial for their sustainability that they create the business-to-business linkages regionwide that will lead to increased growth. In the case of Jamaica, he said, “for years the country has recorded a trade deficit within CARICOM, and we are urging our producers better familiarize themselves with the larger Caribbean marketplace. Our network of chambers will work alongside you to facilitate your regional growth”.
CARICHAM, he underscored, can become a useful platform for boosting intra-regional trade & investment linkages.
The new body, which is being led in its first year by a three-person Executive comprising Lizra Fabien (Chair), Executive Director, Dominica Association of Industry & Commerce; Carlos Wharton (Advisor), Executive Director, Barbados Chamber of Industry & Commerce; and Trevor Fearon (vice-Chair), CEO, Jamaica Chamber of Commerce has begun consultations on its action plan with a number of regional institutions and multilateral organizations.
Noted Fearon: “What we are doing initially is creating the types of partnership that will contribute to us executing our very ambitious work programme. We have already found an encouragingly high degree of willingness on the part of potential partners to work with us and we intend to make the most of that opportunity”.