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Charleston – Caribbean link being renewed

Charleston – Caribbean link being renewed

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Centuries ago, there was a booming economic trade between Charleston, South Carolina and the Caribbean. From April 23rd to 25th 2008, a milestone summit was held between officials of that United States city and representatives from St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Barbados and Grenada, at the Charleston Harbour Marina, in an attempt to revitalise that past economic glory.{{more}}

At a press conference on Tuesday, Head of the Regional Integration and Diaspora Unit Ambassador Ellsworth John related that: “…most of South Carolina’s early economic success was an extension of trade with the Caribbean.”

Minister of Telecommunications & Industry Dr Jerrol Thompson, John and local businessman Ken Boyea represented St. Vincent and the Grenadines at the summit. The focus of the event was to establish mutually beneficial ways of strengthening the relationship between Charleston and the Caribbean.

According to Ambassador John, there was particular discussion on the areas of Transportation, Financial Services, Medical Services and Telecommunications. He said the summit was of particular importance to SVG as it is a part of our overall, ongoing foreign policy strategy to forge beneficial relationships with as many North American states as possible, relationships that Dr Thompson believes are best achieved at state, rather than federal, level.

The Minister, who was “…honoured and pleased…” to have led the delegation, had the important role of making a presentation on the current state of telecommunications in the region.

During the summit, the Vincentian delegation met with a wide cross-section of institutions, government organizations and a host of private sector entities. Dr Thompson told the media that the delegation managed to attain pledges from many of them, for assistance with medical and business training, tourism development, telecommunications and broadband/Internet services, and alternative funding sources for small businesses. He also said that pledges were also obtained for software that would help to stimulate young people’s (especially males) interest in science and technology, and one company in particular offered to provide training on how businesses can set up, maintain and develop their websites.

According to Thompson, Charleston businesses have established a ‘digital corridor’ whereby they are interested in setting up subsidiary companies in offshore regions such as the Caribbean, in order to deflect the cost of data collection. At present, India offers the cheapest rates, but, Thompson highlighted that the rates here in SVG and other islands are not significantly higher. This, added to the geographical proximity of SVG to the USA and the lack of a language barrier, makes conducting business in the region highly appealing.

Thompson further related that Charleston Harbour is the fastest growing port on the Eastern Sea-board. He said the city is preparing for the completion of the widening of the Panama Canal, which is due to be complete in 3 to 4 years time. The renovation of the canal will allow bigger shipping vessels to pass through, utilizing the ports on the Eastern seaboard instead of those on the west. This, Thompson said, will decrease the price of goods coming from Southeast Asia, and will ultimately benefit the Caribbean – SVG included. (JSV)

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