ROGERS — The World Trade Center of Arkansas is joining forces the U.S. Commercial Service for a key trade mission this fall to the Caribbean, where companies will have one-on-one opportunities to meet with business leaders and buyers in the region.
As a whole, the region represents a market of about 27 million people who collectively imported over $21 billion of U.S. goods in 2018.
“The Caribbean has been an important export destination for Arkansas goods and services,” Melvin Torres, the center’s director of Western Hemisphere trade, said in a statement. “The Central America Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA) has provided great benefits for Arkansas exports.”
Arkansas’ top partner in the Caribbean is Haiti, which is also the state’s No. 12 overall trade partner. Haiti accounted for roughly $101 million in Arkansas exports in 2019, equaling the total exported to Australia. Haiti was also the Natural State’s third largest agricultural export market behind Canada and Mexico.
“We’re taking Arkansas companies that are interested in entering the Caribbean market,” Torres added.
Businesses will also be able to have one-on-one consultations with U.S. & Foreign Commercial Service as well Department of State economic/commercial officers with expertise in commercial markets throughout the region.
Christian Koschil, deputy Caribbean partner post coordinator at the U.S. Commercial Service, led a webinar earlier this month in tandem with the Center to inform companies and individuals about the vast opportunities in the Caribbean.
Trish Watkins, assistant director of grants and finance at the Center, also gave a presentation during the webinar about accessing State Trade Expansion Program (STEP) grants, which are vital to expanding business opportunities in the Caribbean and across the world.
“We’ve secured hundreds of thousands in funding for small businesses that have allowed us to assist eligible Arkansas business with their export endeavors,” Watkins said.
The Center’s mission is to grow trade and increase Arkansas exports by connecting Arkansas businesses to the world through international trade services. The center is part of the University of Arkansas and serves as the trade promotion arm for the Arkansas Economic Development Commission. For more information and valuable updates, please follow the center on Facebook and Twitter or subscribe to the World Trade Center Arkansas newsletter.