In attendance on behalf of the Caribbean private sector at the II CEO Summit of the Americas were Mr Ramesh Dookhoo, President and Mr. Dav-Ernan Kowlessar, Secretary and Head of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) Secretariat. They were able to forge relationships with business leaders and associations that would further the work of the CAIC for the benefit of its members and the private sector as a whole.
The Summit was held in Panama City on April 8-10, 2015 immediately before the VII Summit of the Americas.
Purpose of the Summit
The first edition of the Summit was held in Cartagena, Colombia in 2012 and was attended by 13 Heads of State and Government and over 700 business leaders. This second edition did not feature many CEOs from the Caribbean. Of note in attendance however was Arthur Lok Jack and his team from ABIL, AACCLA chairman, Nicholas Galt and other representatives from Jamaica.
The II Summit, devoted to the theme of ‘Bridging the Americas: productive Integration for Inclusive Development’ analysed opportunities for promoting investment, facilitating trade and fostering development in energy, agribusiness, finance, information technology and public infrastructure. It also included the importance of active participation of the private sector in the social development of the Americas.
The CAIC, as the “voice of the Caribbean Private Sector” was able to make linkages during the pre-summit cocktail reception with Caribbean-Central American and American counterparts. Opportunities were seized upon to consolidate discussions for FECAICA whereby a framework for cooperation was formulated between Central America and the Caribbean, and is intended to be formalised through an MoU amongst the parties.
With Cuba in the spotlight, since USA President Barack Obama’s announcement to open an embassy in Cuba, the Cuban Minister of Foreign Trade and Investment, Rodrigo Malmierca Diaz was in attendance and presented on new trade and investment opportunities in Cuba. CAIC along with FECAICA and CCAA were able to look at trade relationships in Cuba with a possible trade mission in July.
Maintaining the theme of the Summit, key areas of concern for the hemisphere were tackled. While there were presentations made by various Heads of State including Belize, Dominican Republic, Colombia, Paraguay and others, the key areas took the format of panel discussions.
Business Leaders from organisations such as PepsiCo, Banco General, Facebook, Marriott International, Copa Holdings, Boeing, Google and Chevron to name a few, sat on panels to discuss the following topics: -
- Food Security and Agribusiness
- Financial Integration and Inclusion
- Women’s Economic Empowerment
- Corporate Social Innovations
- Innovation and IT
Some of the key points highlighted during these discussions include: -
- There has been an increase of only 15% in arable land.
- Areas for concern in food security include access to markets, issues with land ownership resolution and restructuring of finance for agriculture and agroprocessing.
- Venezuela produces more oil than Saudi Arabia, which over the next three years will result in an estimated increase in fleets by about 3000.
- According to Boeing CEO, W. James McNernry Jr., Canada is the sixth largest producer of oil and energy, with the expectation of spending billions on energy infrastructure.
- UN Secretary General, Ban Ki-Moon, spoke on the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and the commitment of world leaders in the area of climate change. This leads to the first world agreement on climate change. He asked the business leaders to lend support for it as failure to do so would mean failure for the world.
- Ban Ki-Moon stressed on the need for more corporate social responsibility in his discussion on civil society.
- Head of State of Panama saw a need to look at prosperity.
- Belize spoke of change in becoming a second class economic country, providing tangible example of regional trade with the US. Technology has created a major transformation for Belize and allowed trade with Mexico to increase by over 15%. The focus for Belize is on training and cross training while there is a need for regional integration as it relates to energy costs as well as business and academia to make sure people are trained in the right thing.
- Mexico is looking at energy reform and invites the private sector to weigh in.
Americas Business Dialogue
In the lead up to and during the VIII Americas Competitiveness Forum, the IDB facilitated the Americas Business Dialogue - eight discussion papers that the private sector was brought in to contribute to. The CAIC, contributing to these papers by gathering information on the various topics and consolidating it for submission saw the presentation of the policy recommendations and public-private partnership proposals at the Summit of the Americas.
Coming out of the ABD were recommendations and proposals to improve infrastructure and strengthen trade, facilitate financial resources to spur growth and development, stimulate innovation and entrepreneurship and develop human capital, and maximise the potential of the region’s energy and natural resources. These recommendations and proposals were submitted to the Heads of State for review.
During the VIII ACF, a private sector day was held with a Private Sector Declaration signed on October 8, 2014 to be submitted to the VII Summit of the Americas. This was done and etched into the construct of a way forward with the leaders of the western hemispehere through the document entitled “From Dialogue to Action: Policy Recommendations and Public-Private Partnership Proposals”.
In reflecting on the Summit, CAIC counted the experience a success as the opportunity to network was taken advantage of through linkages and agreements that place the CAIC as the recognised voice of the Caribbean Private Sector, acting on behalf of its members for the sustainable development of their businesses.