Despite a 17.5 per cent decline in global merchandise exports, Barbados’ manufacturers and producers remain competitive in the export of goods to markets in CARICOM when compared with other exporters within the region.
Statistics gathered from the UN COMTRADE database demonstrate that Barbados remains the second highest intra regional trade exporter of goods when compared with all other CARICOM countries.
The latest available figures for the 2013/14 period show that Barbados exported a total of US$292 million to the region. Trinidad was the highest exporter to CARICOM with over US$1.6 billion in exports, while Guyana was the third highest intra regional exporter with US$155.1 million.
According to the statistics, Trinidad is the most receptive to Barbadian exports, importing US$53.9 million in goods for the 2013/14 period. Guyana was the second highest, importing US$21.4 million of Barbadian goods, while Jamaica imported US$20.7 million in Barbadian goods.
The top exported goods to these countries were mineral fuels and oil products (Trinidad), earth and cement (Guyana), and pharmaceutical products (Jamaica). Exports to the OECS were also substantial with the most exported item to Antigua, Dominica, Montserrat, St. Kitts and St. Lucia being pharmaceutical products worth US$8.47 million.
For Barbados, the industries with the strongest export performance in the 2009-2014 have consistently been the beverage, optical, pharmaceutical and animal fat industries, for which the main exporters in these industries have successfully been able to import the necessary inputs and constrain costs sufficiently.
It is interesting to note that even with the persisting economic recession and the resulting public sector job cuts across many countries in CARICOM, intra- regional trade continues to grow. Since 2009 CARICOM’s intra-regional exports on a whole increased from US$1.9 billion in 2009 to US$2.2 billion for the 2012/13 time period. Like many other CARICOM countries, the CARICOM region is a receptive market for Barbadian goods with the top ten importers of Barbadian goods being CARICOM countries, with the exception of the US and Canada, which both happen to have a large Caribbean diaspora.
From the data it is obvious that CARICOM remains a potentially lucrative market for Barbadian manufacturers and producers interested in expanding production and sale of their goods and/or services.
Skeptics may argue that implementing this strategy does require significant effort, as exporters must acquire the needed import licenses and ensure compliance with the national regulations and/or standards in each country to gain market access for their goods. In circumstances where an exporter is attempting to gain market access to several countries, the process can be very time-consuming.
However, despite this challenge, the concept of increasing intra-regional trade in CARICOM is consistent with global sentiment among international trade agencies which laud intra-regional trade as the handiest tool to address the global economic crisis.
The International Trade Centre in Switzerland estimates that intra regional trade among emerging markets currently makes up 20 per cent of the world’s total trade and is expected to surpass trade between the “developed” and “developing” world by 2030. The reality is that this may be the way of the future.
• Sherry-Ann Blackett is an international trade consultant and researcher. She has a Master of Science in international trade policy and a Bachelor of Arts in economics.