Business leaders talk US-CARICOM services trade in Washington; advancing SOCA-Services of the Caribbean

Business leaders of the American Chambers of Commerce (AMCHAMs) of Jamaica, Trinidad & Tobago, Barbados-Eastern Caribbean, and Bahamas, were in Washington, DC recently discussing US-CARICOM services trade as part of the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) with US government leaders, US Congress staffers, and US business leaders and organizations. Co-chaired by the AMCHAMs of Jamaica and Trinidad & Tobago, the SOCA initiative launched in 2013 in Washington, is focused on advancing executive, legislative, and business-to-business (B2B) initiatives between CARICOM businesses and the US to expand trade and investment in services between both markets. As founding member, SOCA also includes the Trinidad & Tobago Coalition of Services Industries (TTCSI). In May 2014 the SOCA received the endorsement of the CARICOM Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED) at its Ministerial meeting in Georgetown, Guyana.

The delegation led by Hugh Howard and Derrick Nembhard, respective Presidents of the Trinidad & Tobago and Jamaica AMCHAMs, held meetings with the US Chamber of Commerce, the Association of American Chambers of Commerce of Latin America and Caribbean (AACCLA), Caribbean-Central American Action, US Coalition of Services Industries (USCSI), as well officials from the State Department and the US Trade Representative. Meetings were also held in the US Congress with key trade staffers responsible for the CBI in the influential House Ways & Means Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. Joining the delegation were Trinidad businessman (and current Chairman of AACCLA), Nicholas Galt of TSL and Ron McKay of Jamaica ADS, as well as the Chief Executive Officers of each AMCHAM, Nirad Tewarie (Trinidad & Tobago) and Becky Stockhausen (Jamaica). The SOCA delegation also held a meeting with the Caucus of CARICOM Ambassadors in Washington, currently chaired by Ambassador Deborah-Mae Lovell of Antigua & Barbuda, which included the participation of the Ambassadors of Bahamas, Barbados, Dominica, Jamaica, Suriname, and Trinidad & Tobago, and Embassy officials of the rest of the CARICOM Member States.

The SOCA argues for a refocusing of the CBI towards services as the dominant sector of CARICOM economies and of US-CARICOM trade and investment, after 30 years of a goods-based preferential trade regime which no longer reflects the economic reality of the region or of the bilateral trade and investment relationship. CARICOM goods exports to the US in 2012 totalled US$12 billion, down from US$32 billion in 2005. US goods exports to CARICOM in 2012 were US$19 billion, down from US$40 billion in 2005. While neither country has reliable data for services trade, in 2012 CARICOM exported US$9.6 billion in services to the world while importing US$6.6 billion, showing a clear competitive export edge for the region’s services sectors.

“My company, Jamaica ADS, is fully convinced that the services sector is the way to expand economic growth and jobs for Jamaica and its CARICOM neighbours and we urge the business community and governments of the region to join and support this effort”, stressed Ron McKay, president of Jamaica’s leading call-center business processing operation, ADS.

SOCA’s business facilitation focus is centered on eight (8) key services sectors for expansion in trade and investment with the US under the preferences of the CBI:
– Financial and Insurance
– Education & Training, including Medical/Nursing as well as Medical Tourism
– ICT/Call Centers and E-Commerce
– Energy Services
– Logistics & Transportation
– Entertainment & Film/Music/Audiovisual and Creative industries
– Advertising & Marketing
– Professional services

“Focusing on services trade and investment with the US, in a non-free trade agreement manner, is a unique and creative way of engaging the Obama Administration and the US Congress to advance a proactive economic development agenda with CARICOM, something which has been missing since the last CBI enhancement of 2000”, said Stephen Lande, the former Assistant US Trade Representative involved with the CBI in 1983 and now President of Manchester Trade Ltd. Inc. in Washington, DC, who serve as advisors to SOCA.

For further information please contact:
SOCA Co-Chair:
Trinidad & Tobago: Nirad Tewarie –
Francisca Hector Communications Officer – The American Chamber of Commerce Trinidad & Tobago at 622-4466 ext. 228.

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