Belize is seeing unprecedented demand for its grain, seafood and other types of produce in Caribbean Community (CARICOM) markets such as Guyana, Trinidad, Jamaica and Barbados through the CARICOM Single Market and Economy’s (CSME) zero duty preferential access mechanism, chief executive officer of the ministry of trade, investment, promotion, private sector development and consumer protection, Michael Singh has disclosed.

Singh, who was addressing a CARICOM Single Market media workshop in Belize City on February 26, urged Belizean manufacturers to utilize the preferential access tools offered through the CSME into 12 other CARICOM markets. Under the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, goods of Belizean origin have the right to enter 12 other CARICOM markets at zero rate of duty.

“The word is getting out that CARICOM is a real market for Belizean products,” he concluded.

He added that, as a primary producer of goods with the potential to feed CARICOM, it is also incumbent upon Belizeans to expand beyond just primary production, to building value chains internally so that they can compete in the market for intermediary and finished goods.

In making the case for Belize’s competitive advantage within the CARICOM arena, Singh said Belize has been cited as one of the fastest growing and most diversified economies in the region with low population and large arable land, expertise and productivity in agribusiness and aquaculture and diverse tourism offerings combined with Belize’s lower cost of production through lower electricity, labour and land costs.

The CEO noted that the CSME has now become a platform upon which Belize can be the star performer.

“It is time for us to show ourselves in this new theater designed especially for us,” he said.

Trade economist in the ministry, Berisford Codd, in supporting Singh’s report on Belize’s performance in CARICOM , presented Belize’s CSME report card showing that Belize’s exports to CARICOM moved from U$25 million in 2009 to US$90 million in 2013. He reported that Belize maintains a positive trade balance surplus of US$40 million with its CARICOM trading neighbours. The data shows that frozen concentrate, shellfish and beans account for the greatest percentage of exports to CARICOM, he noted.

Another CSM regime showing some progress was the free movement of skills. Codd disclosed that 187 Belizean nationals have applied for CARICOM Skills certificates – which permit them to work indefinitely without work permit in any of the other 12 CARICOM member states, which are signatories to the CARICOM Single Market.

He noted that reports indicate that most persons who move from Belize move into top management positions. He noted that Belize will move to improve access to this important regime by repackaging its awareness programme using different outlets and directly targeting new graduates, streamlining skills certificate application process, raising ITVET standard to CVQ level and launching the CSM Accreditation Council.

Singh and Codd’s remarks were made on day one and day two respectively of the workshop attended by media workers from several media houses based in Belize City.

The workshop was designed to equip media houses with tools to break new ground in CSM coverage. The workshop was one of two workshops staged this past week with the other targeting CSM spokespersons. Weeks previously two CARICOM Single market workshops were staged in Belmopan and Dangriga for teachers, with a view to supporting the integrating of CARICOM Single Market concepts into lesson plans.

The media and spokespersons workshops were coordinated by the ministry of trade, investment, promotion, private sector development and consumer protection in partnership with the CARICOM Secretariat and made possible with funding by the government of Canada under the CARICOM Trade and Competitiveness Project (CTCP) Component 300.

All Workshops are key activities under the CARICOM Single Market Information Flows Project, which is mandated to set the framework for heightened public education and awareness on the CSME led by the focal point ministries in six CARICOM member states. This includes capacity building initiatives, the AccessCSME series, sustainable public education strategies and information channels, and workshop training of the media, teachers and spokesperson to spread the word among their significant stakeholders and publics.

The project is being implemented in Belize, Jamaica, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines, Grenada and Guyana.

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