St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce hosts Puerto Rican Trade Mission: “Puerto Rico is open for business”

POSTED: 06/23/14 6:20 PM

GREAT BAY – The St. Maarten Chamber of Commerce and Industry hosted a trade delegation from Puerto Rico last Saturday with a business brunch and some social networking at the Sonesta Great Bay Hotel and Casino. The delegation was on a 5 island tour, with St. Maarten as their last stop on the itinerary.  The purpose of their trip was “reforming economic development between Puerto Rico and the business community within the Caribbean region,” according to the chamber.

The trade mission consisted of 13 Puerto Rican businesses led by Francisco Chévere Mouriño of the Puerto Rico Trade and Export Company, a government owned corporation with the mandate of promoting foreign investment in the island’s economy and promoting Puerto Rican enterprises.

The event was attended by Minister of Economic Affairs Ted Richardson, who welcomed the delegation. “You did it right by leaving the best for last,” he said. He described an economic partnership between Puerto Rico and St. Maarten as a “natural marriage” and that the delegation was “finding the right partner.”

“We are a hub, small but important,” Richardson said to the crowd. “We are making lots of relationships with other islands.”

Chamber President Peggy Ann Brandon said that, “coming to St. Maarten is one step; it will be a fruitful step,” describing the multi-cultural, multi-national society that is the island. “We speak any language that is required.” Brandon said that under her tenure the Chamber would work with government, and provide any economic data that is available to enhance policy and decision making. “That is a pledge we make.”

“Puerto Rico is open for business with St. Maarten,” Mouriño said. He then provided a short video presentation on doing business in Puerto Rico, highlighting its American judicial system and currency, and its advanced infrastructure.

Some of the companies that visited St. Maarten were a honey maker, a mushroom grower (which means mushrooms can arrive on St. Maarten far fresher than having to be flown in elsewhere), a furniture manufacturer, a spark plug maker, and a few medical technology firms, among others.

“The trade balance between St. Maarten and Puerto Rico has been a little weak,” Mouriño lamented, so his company was given a mandate to foster greater inter-Caribbean trade.

Secretary General of Economic Affairs Miguel de Weever gave the delegation a detailed presentation on the hard economic data on St. Maarten and an overview of how the government works and what it would take to invest here, and how the dual nature of the island with the purchasing power of the Euro stimulates consumer spending on the Dutch side. “The economy is growing,” he said, pointing to the growth in tourism, the island’s main economic pillar.

De Weever also said the possibility of medical tourism was another opportunity for mutually beneficial economic partnerships with Puerto Rico.
Chamber Executive Director Claret Connor described Puerto Rico as a hub in the North Eastern Caribbean, “but has found itself in economic difficulties,” due to the global recession that has plagued economic growth in the region. “But its government is actively seeking to break out of the doldrums.”

Both St. Maarten’s and Puerto Rican representatives agreed that St. Maarten and Puerto Rico are natural commercial and social partners.

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