Despite a disappointing year for trade in South Florida (following below $100 billion for the first time since 2010), Trinidad and Tobago has come out on top among CARICOM countries trading with the region.
Trading between South Florida and Trinidad and Tobago enjoyed a record high in 2015, with total trade numbering over $1.27 billion, marking a 10.49 percent growth. Their total exports from South Florida also rose 7.38 percent to $1.19 billion, while imports rose a whopping 90 percent to $81.89 million. With such numbers, the Twin Republic is now South Florida 22nd most profitable trading partner.
Trinidad’s mineral wealth was in most demand, with ammonia, petroleum and acyclic alcohols being the top imports from the Twin Republic. For exports, mechanical and manufacturing parts dominated. Wesley Kirton, the vice-president of the Greater Caribbean-American Chamber of Commerce and CARICOM Director at Outreach Aid to the Americas (OAA), believes increased trade could be attributed to “the nation’s manufactures [of Trinidad and Tobago] buying in bulk, mindful of potential uncertainties related to the September 2015 general elections.”
In contrast, Jamaica still made it to South Florida’s top 50 international traders, ranking at 34th place, thanks to an 8.37 percent increase in total trading to $661.24 million. The current rate, however, pales in comparison when compared the trading in 1994, when it was double today’s numbers. Consumption of Jamaica’s food products such as liquor, sauces, bread, root vegetables, sugar and prepared foods and beverages (driven in no small part by Diaspora consumers) helped drive the nation’s imports to South Florida and the rest of the U.S.
Jamaican import/exporter in Miami, Kevin Reid, said he has noticed a “gradual decline” in trade between South Florida and Jamaica, which he attributes to the “weak Jamaican dollar’ which has boosted importation cost to Jamaican business.
But another Caribbean country – Cuba – lurks on the horizon that may change the South Florida trading landscape., with President Barack Obama recently announcing new regulations expanding commerce between U.S. companies and Cuba, include permission to finance licensed exports to that nation. The new regulations will remove existing restrictions on payment and financing terms for authorized exports and re-exports, not including agricultural products, to Cuba. However, these new regulations do not yet mean a comprehensive relaxation in the trade embargo between the U.S. and Cuba that has existed for over 50 years.
Wesley, however, believes the Caribbean-American business community needs to take Cuba’s future in the marketplace head-on. In response, the OAA is hosting the upcoming “Cuba and the State of Florida” conference set for February 10 at the Miramar Cultural Center. The conference will take on the essential task of “examining the strategic business links between Caribbean countries, Florida exporters and Cuba,” says Kirton. “It’s important businesses be prepared to take advantage of this trade from the opening.”