Chambers of Commerce Hosts OECS Delegation

The untimely passing of Hurricane Gonzalo (though the island last week) interrupted a planned Business to Business Matchmaking and Trade Mission organized collaboratively with the St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce & Industry (COCI), the Chambre Consulaire Interprofessionelle Saint-Martin (CCISM) and the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS).  The trade mission was scheduled to take place October 15-17th.


Though the trade mission was cancelled, the OECS delegation chose to travel to St. Maarten, due to its central local as a sub-hub with the region, anyway and held a round of successful courtesy meetings with each Chamber as well as engaged in some individual matchmaking meetings with several local Wholesalers and Distributors that were facilitate by the COCI.


On Wednesday, October 15th, the OECS delegation consisting of representatives from government ministries, public/private organizations, entrepreneurs and companies in an effort to stimulate their manufacturing and service sectors while strengthening ties with St. Maarten and neighboring Caribbean nations, met with the COCI.  During the meeting Mr. Claret Connor, Executive Director, kindly welcomed the delegation to St. Maarten under challenging circumstances post hurricane.   Mr. Miguel de Weever, acting Secretary General, of the Ministry of Tourism, Economic Affairs, Traffic & Telecommunication and two key managers of his ministry were in attendance.  Mr. de Weever discussed the Caribbean nations sharing similar challenges and a need for future collaborations in order to increase economic activity and diversification.



On Thursday, October 16th, the OECS delegation met with the CCISM at their offices, and were greeted with warm hospitality by Chamber President Mr. Jean Arnell, Director Maggie Gumbs and other members of the Board.  During his presentation, Mr. Arnell acknowledged the need to open access to the French market and create mutually beneficial partnerships.  Lack of statistical and accessible information was cited as a drawback in the Caribbean trade environment by Mr. Arnell who went on to describe a collaborative effort being undertaken with the St. Martin Government to implement a strategic agricultural development plan for the Northern half of the island, whereby CCISM, at a given time, will act as St. Martin’s Export Agency.  Mr. Arnell is positive that a partnership with the OECS countries could be established.


At both meetings, the OECS organizers spoke briefly about their interests and reasons for participating in the Trade.  The delegates focused on Exports in the tourism-driven economy of the Caribbean.  The delegate’s main focus is on emphasizing regional self-sustenance with a “grown by the Caribbean, sold to the Caribbean” approach (think locally, act locally).  The notion of which would help to create an inter-Caribbean supply chain of locally produced and sold goods. The OECS delegation mentioned the need for follow up and continuous communication after such endeavors.  The COCI and CCISM committed to assist in business to business relations with the island.


In response to this Mr. Connor stated that one of the COCI’s main goals is to market St. Maarten as the Region’s Logistics and Sub-Hub destination.  Each OECS participant expressed a keen interest in exploring the island’s virtually “untapped” manufacturing and agricultural industries.


The upcoming COCI Trade Mission and Business Exposition with Panama and regional Caribbean countries in January 2015 will present the crucial opportunity for the OECS delegation to return to the island, network, match make via Business to Business sessions, showcase various products/services and interact with key industry players from St. Maarten/ St. Martin, Panama, the Netherlands and the entire Caribbean region.