EXPO 2012 Opening Address by Minister Emma Hippolyte

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EXPO 2012 Opening Address delivered by Emma Hippolyte, Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs

 Union Industrial Estate, May 24th 2012,

Ever since her assumption to office the Minister for Commerce, Business Development, Investment and Consumer Affairs Ms Emma Hippolyte has brought a renewed energy and approach to this office and so it is unfortunate that she cannot be here to deliver this address. I therefore extend her apologies and trust that you understand that only a matter of grave importance could have taken her away from this singularly important event here today. I have been tasked therefore to deliver this address on her behalf.

Welcome to the grand opening of Saint Lucia Expo 2012 which is being held under the theme “Expect, Experience, Export the Best of Saint Lucia”

Minister Hippolyte

EXPO Saint Lucia 2012 is grounded on the bold proposition that strong domestic sales and business performance is a vital precursor to achieving export potential and improving competitiveness.This showpiece event is a collaboration between the Government, The business community and the people, of Saint Lucia and it will proclaim boldly to the world that we have come of age and that henceforth and into the future, Saint Lucian products and services are able to hold their own and compete shoulder to shoulder with the best from anywhere in the world.

Today, therefore it is particularly gratifying and I am very proud to oversee the Launch of this National Business Development Event organized for the first time by our newly established Trade Export Promotion Agency (TEPA) so aptly positioned under the Office of Private Sector Relations a true example of a successful public private partnership.  The mix of exhibitors on display include  a range of manufacturing entities, that  have stood the test of time, that produce highly marketable products  that have made their mark not only here in Saint Lucia, but also in overseas markets, including the competitive markets of North America!

Perhaps it is fitting here to recall the historical world event that has brought us to this stage of development. International economic growth theorists postulates  that Trade liberalization – the opening up of markets through reduction of trade barriers – is one of a set of trade policies that aspire to achieve sustainable improvement in living standards across society.  In the pursuit of this objective Saint Lucia participated in the  8th round of Multilateral trade negotiations (MTN) which were conducted within the framework of the General and embracing 123 countries as “contracting parties”.

The Uruguay Round Agreements which resulted from these negotiations transformed the GATT into the World Trade Organization; that came into effect in 1995 and was implemented over the period ending 2000 (2004 in the case of developing country contracting parties)

The Government in collaboration with the Private Sector recognized that a clear strategy was needed to realize the perceived benefits of Trade Liberalization. As a result Saint Lucia embarked on an ambitious undertaking to prepare a National Export Development Strategy (NEDS). The NEDS focused on sustainable export growth and on mainstreaming trade into the broader development framework it also   articulated the need for a TRADE EXPORT PROMOTION AGENCY (TEPA) for Saint Lucia to promote a positive image for Saint Lucian products and services, help companies access technical assistance, facilitate the procedure for exports including coping with the red tape even in the CSME and guide smaller companies towards an export orientation. Today as well we view the continuation of this process.

The purpose of the Expo

Sound export strategies are the basis for effective trade-development programmes and for the coherent positioning of trade-related technical assistance (TRTA).

For a long time both research and anecdotal evidence suggest that principal among the  challenges facing potential and intending exporters in this country, is the absence and inadequacy of a strong local platform of support from which to launch a global business development thrust. With rapidly encroaching competition from globalization, for the most part, the local producer must now face increased competition head on in his own domestic space as he is no longer shielded from the influx of foreign goods and services.

In the absence of this robust base of domestic support, our producers will lack the confidence and financial wherewithal to venture into the more treacherous, cut throat international trading arena. However if sales of domestic products are matching or surpassing those of the imported brands, this can well offer hope to our producers about competing abroad.  Conversely, the opportunity also exists for the business person to trade his/her products virtually anywhere in the world subject of course to the condition that it is viable and sustainable to do so.

EXPO 2012 is therefore designed specifically

  1. to encourage greater appreciation of and support for the goods and services produced in this country
  2. 2.     to provide an avenue with sufficient national prominence to showcase the excellence and authenticity of the tradable goods and services produced in this country.
  3.  to show Saint Lucians and the world that Saint Lucia manufacturing is alive and vibrant, and
  4. to showcase the diverse range of quality products and services that are made right here in Saint Lucia!”

It is an exposition of the finest that Saint Lucia has to offer.

 The EXPO must be viewed as an opportunity to showcase our industriousness, innovativeness and ingenuity as a people. EXPO Saint Lucia must also sound the clarion call to our producers and populace to pursue in an uncompromising and unrelenting manner the embodiment of excellence in our products and services. This is what we must come to expect and demand of ourselves as routine.

My Ministry has been undergoing a process of re-engineering and consolidation in order to pursue more aggressively the mandate that has been assigned to us, this being to spearhead the mobilization of investment, and expand business operations and growth, in order to increase competitiveness and productive employment in our country.

In pursuit of this mandate we will assist businesses and producers to become more technologically equipped, provide investment incentives to manufacturers, services providers and others in the productive sectors, support various capacity building efforts, ensure that our products  meet the highest quality standards and provide business development support.

In return our businesses must become competitive, self-sustaining and able to take advantage of the opportunities presented by the several trading arrangements available to Saint Lucia.

In the current environment, strong emphasis is being placed on broadening the country’s industrial base, focusing on the use of local resources, development of the small and micro business sector, birth  of new and innovative  business’ that become world beaters and leaders and  explore every feasible avenue to promote our businesses to the world. We are aware that in spite of the challenges of the distant and  not too distant  past, and the generally pessimistic outlook for the short term the manufacturing and service producer sectors of Saint Lucia together constitute the unrelenting, innovative pillar on which we will rise or fall as a nation.

 NEXT STEPS

Moving forward therefore it is our intention to make EXPO SAINT LUCIA the premier Trade Exposition in Saint Lucia and the OECS and a highlight on the Saint Lucia business events calendar. Through this medium we hope to bring Saint Lucian as well as Regional and International buyers together with local producers to create trade relationships.

We aim to attract buyers from far and wide, the US, UK and Canada, from other parts of Europe as well as Africa. Buyers from the Caribbean are an especially important target group and we will pursue all means to broaden and deepen that historical relationship.

Expo Saint Lucia must become synonymous with unmatched quality cutting edge innovation. It is an excellent opportunity to showcase our world-class products and services and unleash the strength of Saint Lucia branded products to the world.

Expo Saint Lucia must embody excellence both in terms of what is showcased as well as in its organization and staging. The event must become a bi-ennial showcase that may be taken on the road in the form of a road show.

The activities of this exposition will be closely monitored for the purpose of ensuring that where possible we can maximize the business results from the Expo. Future efforts will be focused on encouraging and facilitating business interactions between greater numbers of buyers and exhibitors.

Through the staging of this event we are hopefully creating the forum and the environment in which business negotiations can take place; and we anticipate that our local suppliers will seize the opportunity to secure relationships and build alliances with the buying community. The intention overtime is to develop the appeal of Brand Saint Lucia goods and services that will attract the attention of major buyers across the globe.

This and other planned business promotion events will serve to enhance Saint Lucia’s global image and create heightened interest in Saint Lucia as a strong destination for doing business

Entrepreneurs/Exhibitors

To the exhibitors let me thank you for your participation and urge you to use this opportunity to maximize your business development objectives, to increase your sales and foster business growth and development through networking.

We also want you to recognize that opportunities exist for possible joint ventures as well as to potentially profitable opportunities for investment.

Consumer/populace of Saint Lucia

To the consuming public of Saint Lucia let me challengeyou to make Saint Lucian products and services your products of choice – in so doing you will be building a stronger economy from which your family loved ones and fellow countrymen will benefit.

I want to encourage you to come out in large numbers as we celebrate our Saint Lucian greatness.

An appeal is made to our Stakeholders in the public and private sector to work hand in glove with the producers of goods and services in the country. For our part my Ministry has in the last budget address outlined in clear and unequivocal terms the measures that are designed to bring about economic stimulation from which we can all prosper and to a great extent has provided the backing for those initiatives. In other words “we have put the money where our mouth is”

In closing let me commend in particular the vision and the effort of the Office of Private Sector Relations in spearheading the staging of this singularly important national event. One of the main responsibilities of the TEPA is to raise the profile of Saint Lucia as a major exporter of goods and services by among other things developing an export brand and projecting an export image for Saint Lucian goods and services.

The organization has set itself the goal of positioning the country as an exporter of authentic and excellent goods and services by highlighting the fine craftsmanship, cultural heritage and the uniqueness of our goods and services. It is imperative that these distinctive features of Saint Lucia products and services be understood and appreciated by the local populace and most importantly be projected to the world

 It is with pleasure that I take the time to commend the Sponsors, Partners, entities and agencies that collaborated in the staging of this event- to the staff of the Ministry of Commerce and to everyone who in any way helped to make a success of this massive undertaking I say thank you. Thank you to the press for being here to you I give the job of sensitization the nation.

I trust that we all realize that in enhancing the competitiveness of our economy we are positively impacting our growth prospects, helping to reduce poverty and improving our quality of life.

May you have a successful expo.

I thank you and may god richly bless you

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