Barbados trade team heading to Cuba

Now that diplomatic ties have been formally re-established between Cuba and the United States, Barbados is looking to add its name to the list of Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries attempting to enter the Cuban market.

From May 2 to 6, Industry Minister Donville Inniss, along with the chief executive officer of the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation (BIDC), Sonja Trotman, will lead a team comprising government and private sector officials on a political/commercial mission to Havana.

Trotman explained that the BIDC was targeting what it considered to be emerging markets because, even though it had negotiated trade agreements with countries such as Cuba, Barbados had not yet taken full advantage of these agreements.

“What we first did was conduct market research, identify some products and a process for going into Cuba, and we believe that we have great potential for some of our major exporters who are already exporting to some of our major markets,” she stated.

With some of the companies already registered and the process of exporting to Cuba completed, the BIDC head pointed out that her organisation and the delegation would be offering support to the sector.

“We believe that this initiative will kind of suggest or confirm to the Cuban business community that these are companies producing products worthy of support, and worthy of import. So, that is why we have agreed to support the exporters who have indicated an interest in Cuba by being there with them to present their products in the market,” she noted.

Explaining that the trip was being executed in collaboration with the Cuban Chamber of Commerce and Barbados’ chargé d’affaires in Cuba, Donna Forde, Trotman explained that the Chamber was facilitating all of the groundwork.

“While in Cuba, they will be staging a seminar on Doing Business in Cuba, and what will be different about the seminar is that it will be specific to the producers who will be there. So, they will be able to interact and ask questions specific to their product. We will also have a product display where we will be showcasing all of the products that will be at the expo, and buyers will be able to come and ask questions, and see, taste and test the product,” she stated.

The CEO acknowledged that it was important when companies were going into new markets to take products that were tried, tested and established.

She added that companies which would have gone through the rigours of exporting into international markets were ideal, and they were taking to Cuba good examples of businesses that have the potential to succeed there because of their experience in exporting.

She also explained that one of the first things they hoped to achieve was to make Cuban buyers and the buying community aware of Barbados, and its source of very good product offerings.

“This is why we are doing the displays and having the testing. And for companies that are ready in terms of having completed the registration process… we are hoping that they can immediately start to export based on the interest that we are hoping we will get from this mission. The others will learn what they need to do, what other processes need to be completed, so that they too can successfully enter the Cuban market,” she said.

The CEO stated should BIDC undertake a second mission to Cuba, it would have Banks Breweries Limited as part of the group of companies going into Cuba. She stated that the company had indicated an interest in obtaining information with reference to its product and the BIDC would facilitate the process.

There will be two delegations going on the trip, a business delegation, which would consist of the companies that would be going to sell their products, and a ministerial delegation, which would accompany Inniss on his meetings with his Cuban counterpart.

Meetings with the Cuban Trade Promotion Agency, which is similar to the BIDC; discussions with Cuba’s Chamber of Commerce; as well as the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the BIDC and the Cuban Chamber of Commerce to facilitate business in the future, will also be part of the agenda.

“I believe that in the group of companies accompanying us, there is great potential, and that relates to the fact that they are established companies. They understand what it means to export and have demonstrated a willingness to seek out new markets, and that is important, even if the market isn’t English-speaking.

“And, that is what we at the BIDC are trying to encourage to further push our manufacturers to break away from the North American market, and explore the Latin American market and other markets where there is potential. Persons look at the language as a barrier, but it isn’t, once you can engage the services required to help you,” Trotman stressed.

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