The meeting, convened by the Assistant Secretary General of the Organization of American States, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, and the chair pro tempore of SICA Foreign Affairs, Minister Hugo Martinez, also included ministers of economy and trade of El Salvador, Guatemala, Jamaica, Panama, and Trinidad and Tobago. The minister of foreign affairs of Suriname as well as the secretaries general of CARICOM and SICA also attended the meeting.
Central America and the Caribbean represent a combined market of approximately 56 million people. According to Ramdin, the time has come to pursue all business opportunities and come up with concrete initiatives to expand trade and investment between both regions.
“To make this happen, governments on both sides must be willing to re-examine the environment for trade and minimize barriers. At the same time, the private sector must be ready to engage creatively with their counterparts,” Ramdin said.
Among the current challenges to trade and investment identified by business executives from both regions are: limited transportation options, challenges to connectivity, a lack of data on investment and economic opportunities, varied business and investment regulations and legislation, a language barrier and visa restrictions.
Recommendations by the business group on the way forward include a suggestion to renew discussions on a trade agreement between Central America and the Caribbean, the feasibility of granting economic citizenship and long-term visas to investors, reviewing requirements for work permits, commercial language training and building trust as a solid foundation for Pan-Caribbean business.
Ramdin also welcomed the expression of interest by Trinidad and Tobago in hosting the second high-level meeting of SICA-CARICOM CEOs in 2012.