Remarks by Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development
Honourable Shereen Flax-Charles
Launch of the Virgin Islands Trade Commission
23rd February, 2021
Today it gives me great pleasure to stand here before you at this official launch of the Virgin Islands Trade Commission, which will be a statutory agency established under the Virgin Islands Trade Commission Act, 2020.
This is a day I have been looking forward to because it means that we are indeed moving forward with transforming trade in the Virgin Islands.
Please allow me as the Junior Minister for Trade and Economic Development to say that I am pleased to outline the objectives and strategies for trade and economic development, in order to ensure the sustainable development of the Territory of the Virgin Islands.
First, let me say that the overall aim of the Trade Commission is to develop policies, programmes and initiatives that would seek to achieve the following objectives:
It is the Government’s desire to Create an atmosphere of trust, transparency and predictability in order to increase investments, private sector growth and local entrepreneurship;
We also wish to Simplify Government’s procedures in order to minimise the cost of doing business and other transaction costs;
We will Facilitate capacity building in manpower and resources;
We will Identify and develop special focus areas, which would diversify the economy and generate employment opportunities;
We will Facilitate technological upgrades of all the sectors through the use of ICT in order to transform the Virgin Islands into a modern Digital Economy;
We will also Facilitate forward looking policies for revenue generation and ensure that domestic sectors are not disadvantaged by global regulations;
Additionally, we will Increase competitiveness in the Territory and enable consumers to have access to the widest choices of goods and services on the best possible terms; and
Finally, we will seek to Achieve economic integration among regional trading partners and secure access to global markets for the export of goods and services originating from the Virgin Islands.
We intend to achieve these objectives I have outlined by implementing the following strategies as a Government:
By Creating an effective legal framework under the National Trade Policy, with the various policies, legislation and strategies to address our economic development needs;
We have also created the institutional framework to provide a “One-Stop-Shop” for services to coordinate all of the relevant agencies to facilitate business;
With the established frameworks, we will seek to Create a business friendly environment by streamlining processes with clear lines of procedures to ensure the ease of doing business;
One of our most important strategies is to Create and facilitate opportunities for the development of Micro Small & Medium Enterprises (MSME) by providing relevant support services, as they are the backbone of the economy.
Additionally, we will be Developing and promoting new sectors for diversification and facilitating investments in those key sectors for growth.
As such, we will be Offering businesses access to incentives, support and financing mechanisms;
One of the key strategies to ensure ease of doing business in the Territory is to Offer fully digitised services through an Integrated IT system of e-Government;
Additionally, we will be Establishing close linkages with manpower and economic priorities, as well as Creating an education system with a strong focus on science, technology, engineering, arts and mathematics (STEAM) that would fit the needs of economic sectors;
These would help us to further, Develop and Promote a labour force with relevant technical and vocational skills that are specific to the needs of the industry sectors.
In order to achieve all of this, your Government has undertaken an initiative to transform the institutional, governance and operational structures to ensure efficiency in providing the services required for the development of industry sectors, which are vital to the sustainable economic development and growth of the Virgin Islands.
As such, your Government has established the Virgin Islands Trade Commission as a statutory body, responsible for trade and economic development. The idea for this new agency is to have an efficiently functioning body accountable for all business, trade and trade-related matters.
The overall plan for implementation of the Virgin Islands Trade Commission is to restructure and transform the Department of Trade, Investment Promotion and Consumer Affairs by expanding its portfolio, to function as the "One-Stop-Shop" for trade, business, investment, fair competition and consumer affairs.
This is to ensure the effective implementation and administration of the National Trade Policy of the Virgin Islands and all of its legal instruments. The purpose of this transformation is to provide the services required for the development of new industries and the expansion of the business environment, which are vital to the sustainable economic development and growth of the Virgin Islands. With this new structure, we will be able to facilitate trade and economic development in a more, holistic, efficient and sustainable manner.
The Virgin Islands Trade Commission will act as an interface between the business community and the Government. The agency will seek to reinvent existing services and create new services in order to add value to the business environment, as the Territory develops into a vibrant and robust knowledge-based economy. It will also focus on making the Virgin Islands the physical gateway between the United States, European, African Region and the Caribbean for international trade, in order for the Virgin Islands to succeed in this increasingly export-driven global economy.
The new agency structure will focus on specific technical areas for development of the economy. These areas include,
1. Business Development, which focuses on the development and growth of Micro Small and Medium Enterprise (MSME) businesses in the Territory, through training and assistance programmes. It provides a one-stop location where entrepreneurs can receive support, assistance, training and counseling, which can help them start a new business, obtain capital, or expand a product.
2. Licensing and Regulation of all businesses operating in the Territory.
3. Investment Promotion and Facilitation focuses on the development of industries though incentives that would attract direct investments by local and foreign companies into the Territory, and investments by local companies abroad. Its main objective is to initiate support measures that will enhance the investment climate of the VI.
4. Fair Trade, which includes Consumer Affairs and Fair Competition, focuses on managing the relationships between business to consumer and business to business respectively, in an effort to address consumers’ needs through the development of standards and programmes that would encourage better business practice.
5. Trade & Export Development will propel the Virgin Islands into the international arena by focusing on the development of trade and commerce, through the establishment of mechanisms that will allow businesses to trade easily; locally, regionally and internationally. Its main objective is to expand the Territory’s global market presence and share by preparing local companies and helping them to gain access, as well as to position themselves into the international market. In doing so, your Government will pursue market access with key trading partners through regional, bilateral and multilateral relationships.
6. Policy Planning Research and Development will be the means by which government is able to gain knowledge of the international trading system as the main research centre for the entire agency.
All of this would be achievable by focusing on our sustainable development goals to ensure our “Sustainable Economic Development for the Future”.
As you can see, your Government is working on a comprehensive programme of activities that will set us on the path of transforming the Virgin Islands into a leading regional economy.
Your Government is fully committed to the principle that our Virgin Islands people must enjoy optimum participation in their economy. You, the people, must be able to participate in the opportunities that are present, and which will emerge, in your economy. It is our job, as your Government, to create the environment that enables this to happen, and this is what we are doing through this restructuring and transformation of the framework for trade and commerce in the Virgin Islands.
We must encourage the innovative capacity of our people, and we must encourage entrepreneurship so that our people can become further empowered. The fact that we recognise the need for the economy to be further diversified means that there is an abundance of opportunities in the Virgin Islands economy for those who are innovative and who have that entrepreneurial spirit.
It is against this backdrop that the restructuring and transformation of our processes for fostering and encouraging activities in trade and commerce is taking place.
It is our hope that, by putting all these support mechanisms in place, we will see more and more Virgin Islanders not only participating in business, but that the growth and success of businesses will bloom, taking our people into a new era of prosperity and financial security.
I wish to thank all persons who have been involved in this process and who will continue to contribute to this transformation, and I look forward to us creating, together, a brighter future for our Virgin Islands.
I thank you.