Commentary: Belize's Aid for Trade Strategy launching was impressive and overwhelming

by Oscar Ramjeet

The Central American country of Belize took centre stage last Friday when it launched a very impressive and quite remarkable Aid for Trade Strategy Initiative in Belize City.

The organisers were highly praised for launching the first initiative in this regard, which was a tremendous success.

Oscar Ramjeet is an
attorney at law who
practices extensively
throughout the
wider Caribbean
It attracted representatives from several international agencies, including the Commonwealth Secretariat, Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), World Trade Organisation (WTO), Organisation of American States (OAS), European Union (EU), Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and several governments, including Cuba, Taiwan, Brazil, Venezuela, Mexico, Guatemala, United Kingdom, United States, Trinidad and Tobago, Jamaica, Honduras, Costa Rica, and a few other countries, as well as business and trade organisations, including the Chamber of Commerce, BELTRAIDE and Belize Coalition of Service Industries.

Representatives from the various international agencies and governments voiced their approval of the initiatives and pledged co-operation.

There have been calls in several quarters for other countries to embark on similar strategies, which are designed to support governments in identification of priorities for building trade capacity, improving coordination between ministries, designing and monitoring an evaluation mechanism, and initiating a dialogue with donors and investors, whether local or foreign.

A few areas have been identified that can assist Belize in not only boosting production, but also improve marketing strategies, which include improving its infrastructure and electricity supplies.

Some overseas participants spoke of Belize's multi racial and multi cultural environments, which include the Maya, and Garifuna uniqueness, and said that efforts should be made to explore these cultures, which could boost tourism.

It was also suggested that this Central American country should try to diversify and move away from the traditional sugar, citrus, bananas, agriculture and fish industries, and move into new ventures, including new areas of tourist attraction, and concentrate on marketing local products in order to attract tourists.

While calls have been made for more incentives and duty free concessions, government officials complained, including the Chief Executive Office of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Alexis Rosado, that there could be more participation from private businesses.

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Wilfred Elrington, traced the country's trade history and said that forestry was king in the 17th century, and then it moved to sugar and later citrus, and also called for co-operation from the private sector.

Foreign Trade Director, Urla Kantun-Coleman, highlighted the four pillars of the Aid and Trade Strategy. They are: infrastructure and trade facilitation; regional integration and implementation of trade agreements; SPS/TBT and standards; and private sector competiveness. Each pillar, she said, clearly identifies remedial actions, including proposed grant or lending operations, further studies, or technical assistance/capacity building needs.

It is now important that there should be follow up to the excellent groundwork laid at Friday's launching.