Barbados has been trading the same “top ten exports” to the same markets for too long, exposing the country to economic vulnerability, Foreign Trade Minister Sandra Husbands said Thursday.
She reported that Barbados has begun a “realignment” towards a new trading destiny in which it sells more of its goods and services to other developing countries rather than depending on markets in the wealthy, industrialized North.
“It’s the only way to overcome the vulnerability of our economy, which has a narrow set of goods that it trades. [and] it hasn’t changed much in 15 years,” Husbands said in a speech at the virtual annual conference of the Institute of Chartered Accountants Barbados (ICAB) under the theme, Purpose Passion Possibilities.
Speaker on the subject East-West Trade Opportunitiesthe Minister said that the term East-West Trade has changed to South-South Trade, in which developing countries seek to form partnerships with other countries in the South on a bilateral, regional, intra-regional or inter-regional basis.
She said Bridgetown had changed its foreign policy to create a realignment towards a South-South destiny. According to her, this realignment does not mean that Barbados will ignore the north but will diversify and add more countries to its trade portfolio.
Husbands said: “One of the things that is very important to us in our national initiative is that we need to pursue trade with non-traditional partners.
“Our top 10 exports are still generally the same, and we seek to market them in a narrow set of markets, which is a recipe for extreme vulnerability. So our government has sought to build new relationships, and we have sought to intensify our engagement on the East-West, South-South corridor so that we can establish a new set of trade relationships that will help us.”
Noting that it was important to understand that all trade took place in a political context, she added that businesses needed to understand how the political sphere influenced Barbados’ engagement in trade.
She added: “While the government will seek to create and increase trade routes between its partners in CARICOM, Latin America and more recently the African continent, we cannot do it alone…. CARICOM must work together, businesses must work together, not to compete, but to cooperate so that we can enhance these opportunities; and the only way to do that is to build trust. Trust is key to being able to give people the confidence to release their financial and human capital.
The Minister of Foreign Trade also informed participants that Barbadian businesses need to find ways to diversify in order to grow, which means looking outside of Barbados.
She told the ICAB conference that finance leaders can play a role in helping their companies seize business opportunities.
The husbands said, “We have to look at exporting and we have to look at investing in other countries so that we can build big businesses that will allow us to do more in terms of trade, and so our account managers, our chief financial officers, our best accountants at the top of our organizations must be part of the management.
“And it speaks to your focus right now to be able to work with your business to broaden its horizon and chart a course, develop a strategy and execute it to help your business transition to an export model or an inbound model. investment that will allow your business to grow and collectively allow Barbados to grow.
She also outlined to the accountants three key areas for a working relationship between the private sector and government: in-depth interviews on available opportunities; work together to formulate a national strategy; invest; training and improving standards.
She called on ICAB members to start looking for innovative ways to help their businesses achieve the goal of South-South cooperation. (BT/BGIS)