December 11, 2009
Invest SVG woos Taiwan businesses

by Kenton X. Chance 11.DEC.09

An Invest SVG delegation left Taiwan on Tuesday having encouraged businesspeople here to consider opportunities in St Vincent and the Grenadines.{{more}}

The group detailed business options in SVG at a seminar last week where the head of an economic cooperation bloc in Taiwan spoke of profit potentials in the Caribbean.

David T.C. Liu, Secretary General of the Chinese International Economic Cooperation Association (CIECA), told businesspeople that SVG’s location in the Lesser Antilles has “the advantage of easy access to markets both in Central America and the Caribbean region”.

He said that the Caribbean has growth potential and encouraged Taiwanese business people to explore the opportunities in the region and consider SVG as a gateway for expansion to the Americas and the world.

Liu noted SVG and Taiwan’s “enduring and mutually beneficial friendship” and said both governments would do their “utmost to promote and expand our bilateral economic cooperation”.

He told this writer that Taiwanese businesspeople are more interested in specific projects and their profit potential than the business climate in a particular location.

He said business climate and profit are not directly related, adding, “the project can indicate after investment how much money [can be made]”.

This approach, he said, would be “more attractive so businesspeople would be more willing to consider [taking] a trip to your place because of the project; not because of the climate.”

He said SVG had potential in food processing, fisheries and tourism and one businessman inquired about how SVG uses its “rejected bananas”.

The businessman said he has profitable establishments in the Philippines and Belize that uses ripe lower grade bananas to produce chips.

And while Chief Agricultural Officer Reuben Robertson said that the concept of reject banana no longer exists in SVG, the businessman said he hoped SVG could use the same technology.

Another businessman congratulated SVG on its efforts to blend agriculture and information communication technology (ICT) but wanted to know on which area the country was more focused.

The businessman said he was involved in solar-electricity generation in Africa and said SVG should invest more in this because diesel is too expensive.

Meanwhile, Taiwan’s Vice Minister of Foreign Affairs told the seminar his country’s diplomatic policy aims to explore new opportunities and develop overseas markets.

Javier Ching-shan Hou said in 2008 bilateral trade between SVG and Taiwan totalled US$769, 000, an increase of 22 percent over the 2007 figure.

He spoke of the SVG’s natural beauty and the opportunities in the tourism industry.

“I have visited the beautiful St. Vincent and the Grenadines on several occasions and have been impressed by the magnificent scenery and beaches found there.

“Indeed, St. Vincent and the Grenadines had long been recognized as a “Jewel of the Caribbean” and, after personally experiencing its beauty, I am convinced of its tourism potential,” he said.

Hou further said SVG has been an important Eastern Caribbean ally to Taiwan and spoke of the “close and extensive” exchanges in agriculture, medical care, and human resources.

He said Taiwan had recently expanded the scope of bilateral cooperation to cover information technology and ecotourism.

“In the future, we will be promoting cooperative projects that are of real benefits to the peoples of our allies, such as increasing productivity in agriculture and aquaculture, providing educational and vocational training, and bridging the digital divide,” Hou said.

Cleo Huggins, Executive Director (Ag) of Invest SVG, said in an interview that Taiwanese businesspeople were interested in agro-processing and renewable energy.

She said some businesses were willing to sell these technologies to SVG, adding, “I think that those are two areas that we would definitely be pursuing”.

“That is what we want for St. Vincent and the Grenadines: to move agriculture from its primary stage to agro-processing so that we can provide within the local economy but also for export.”

She said while businesses have not shown an interest in setting up in SVG, they were willing to provide the country with technical assistance to create industries there.

“They are also interested in trade and more export to St. Vincent … but I can’t say yet that I am seeing an interest in investment. But our purpose for being here is not just to get investment but to get technical assistance and financial assistance, where possible,” she said.

SVG’s Speaker of the House of the Assembly, Hendrick Alexander, who was heading a three-person delegation on an official visit to Taiwan, gave greetings at the seminar. The other members of his delegation were deputy speaker Sen. Rochelle Forde and former Cabinet Secretary Bernard Morgan.

The Invest SVG delegation comprised Nadine Agard, Business Facilitation Officer, Invest SVG; Myccle Burke, Training Officer, Services Commission; Shirla Francis, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Telecommunications; Cleo Huggins, Executive Director (AG), Invest SVG; Tonya Fraser, Marketing Officer, Invest SVG; Reuben Robertson; Chief Agricultural Officer, Ministry of Agriculture; Jimmy Prince, Director, Agency For Public Information. (API)