The Foro de Cancun, November 17th and 18th, had as it's goals to strengthen relations between the Caribbean and Mexico, to open new business relationships between companies from the region and Mexico.
Some of the investment and trade promotions organizations represented were : JAMPRO, PROCOLOMBIA, Beltrade (Belize), PROCOMER (Costa Rica), Invest St. Lucia and CEI-DR (Dominican Republic) among others. There were companies from many of the countries in the Caribbean, including St. Lucia, Haiti, Colombia, Honduras, Guatemala, St. Vincent and the Dominican Republic.
However, the Mexican (and Latin American) penchant for face-to-face meetings can impede progress. Doing business in Mexico is an exercise in patience . The only way to do business is face-to-face. It’s all about relationship and trust, which means lots of hours, miles, flights and comidas [business lunches]… I couldn’t do my job using video-conferencing or emailing… If they don’t like your face, they won’t do business with you, no matter how good your product is.
Countries in Latin America and the Caribbean need to continue building enabling environments that foster economies that can compete globally and that are agile enough to respond to market-driven changes. Caribbean companies need to look at how they can integrate seamlessly into regional and global supply chains to capitalize on new opportunities, take advantage of economies of scale, and participate in global just-in-time production and distribution.
There are opportunities to be exploited in Jamaica, Trinidad Haiti, Guyana and Suriname. It is worth noting that by 2020, Latin American GDP by contrast is expected to reach $10 trillion—double that of 2010—with 640 million active consumers. This can translate into a ready market for many regional products. Caribbean companies should look toward not only looking for new markets for their traditional products but also investigating how some of their outputs can become part of a value-added supply chain.
It is also essential for Caribbean (especially English-speaking) companies to investigate how they start exporting non-trading products to the region, for example, farming kiwis and jalapenos to sell to hotels in Dominican Republic and Cuba. It bears special mention that PROMEXICO was the driver behind linking companies from different countries with each other, not just Mexican ones. Their organization of the Forum was outstanding.
The next phase of Latin American- Caribbean trade is already here and the regional forums and trade shows are good vehicles to meet regional companies, build network and find opportunities for partnerships and sustainable business.