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Jun 24, 2014

2-year program to bolster foreign trade concludes

With a widening trade imbalance, Belize has been attempting to close the gap. To this end, a two-year program to bolster foreign trade concluded today. The project, funded by the European Union focused on negotiation tactics and strategies to increase trade in Central America and beyond the region. Stakeholders from both private and public sector agencies including Customs Department, the Belize Chamber of Commerce and Industry as well as the Agricultural Department and other stakeholders took part in the sessions that targeted both the technical and negotiating teams on foreign investment. According to Foreign Trade Director, Yashin Dujon, the strategy is to expand beyond the trade of products to a wide range of services into the Central American market.

 

Yashin Dujon, Director of Foreign Trade

“Two years ago, we actually launched a trade agenda. We looked at different area, where Belize was represented in terms of trade and it was primarily in the CARICOM area. We also have a partial scope agreement with Guatemala. We are looking for new areas where we can send our goods to and areas where we can source goods to bring into the country. So when we launched that, we realized that a lot of the public officials needed training and we needed a national policy to actually dictate what we could and could not do and what was in the best interest of the country. And so with the help of the E.U., we launched this program which we focused on training and facilitation in terms of looking at Belize’s relationship with Mexico, but we also engaged with Salvador and a few other countries at this time. So we basically prepped the entire public and private service system and look at the areas where Belize can benefit through trade arrangements. We are not looking at competition at a regional level in CARICOM; I’m looking at a global level of competition. Our goods need to be worldwide, our goods need to be up to standard….most of our exporters are producing quality standard goods—they are being packaged right, they are being exported—and the main focus that we have right now is to grow the export base. The first target market that we really have is Central America obviously because of the proximity, because we have terrestrial borders that we can get goods across the border right now. One of the misconceptions is that you need government to do trade. Trade is actually taking place with the Central American countries right now without a trade agreement, without some sort of special preferential access. What we are trying to do now is secure that special preferential access and then we’ll move on from there strategically looking at different countries that we can benefit from.”

 

Reporter

Yashin Dujon

“The most recent trade statistics from SIB shows that there is a widening in the gap of exports and imports. Does the policy focus on this…trying to close the gap?”

 

Yashin Dujon

“Well I don’t think that there is any denying that there is a trading imbalance. I think that one of the areas that we need to look at really is that we have always looked at it in a matter of trading goods. We are now looking at trading services, investment potential and other areas that we can actually benefit. You are looking at a country with a small population, production is limited and so we are looking at growing and actually diversifying the sectors within which we can do business.”

 

A Trade Policy, which was one of the outcomes of the project, has been forwarded to cabinet for approval. Some of the features include branding as well as solidifying the concept of Belize as the bridge between Central America and the Caribbean. 

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