View From Europe - Creative Industries Need Support
Significant Workshop In Trinidad
Editor’s note: The following article first appeard in the Trinidad Express on Friday, November 5, 2004. The article covers the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) Workshop on the Impact of Trade and Technology on Caribbean Creative Industries, Port of Spain, Trinidad, funded by TRINNEX.
Much of the future economic development of the Caribbean will depend on the expansion of newer industries and the creation of value added products or niche markets.
In Trinidad on October 28 the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) and the European organizations Pro€Invest and Trinnex organized a groundbreaking workshop on the impact of trade and technology on the region's creative industries.
[Editor’s note: Pro€Invest is a partnership between the Secretariat of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States and the European Commission. TRINNEX is a Pro€Invest facility for capacity building for the ACP private sector in trade & Investment-related negotiations.]
It brought together from across the Caribbean those in music, the performing and visual arts, the motion picture and video industry, publishing, fashion and glamour as well as all forms of the broadcast media. They met to explore matters of concern relating to the creative sector and to discuss issues such as how best to protect the region's intellectual property, and the ways in which the industry's voice might best be inserted into international trade negotiations and regional fora.
The workshop was important, not least for the fact that it assembled all of the region's creative industries. Its emphasis was on Caribbean culture in an economic context.
At the workshop, Michael 'Ibo' Cooper, one of the founding members of the internationally acclaimed band, Third World, highlighted the historical evolution of Caribbean culture, its richness, diversity and its emergence on the world stage. Mr Cooper made clear that the creative industries needed to be embraced by governments and recognized for their contribution to Caribbean societies and economies.
A common theme throughout the meeting was that the region's creative industries are already very important and have the potential of adding significant new economic value to Caribbean economies. Governments and external trade negotiations must, it was argued, provide avenues for maximizing trade in creative sectors by securing greater and wider market access for Caribbean cultural goods and services.
Many workshop participants stressed the urgent need to put in place the appropriate regulatory and policy measures if the regions creative industries are to achieve their full growth potential. Participants were also anxious to see changes in the ways in which the banking and financial system regards its development.
This unique meeting also heard from leading international experts and executives how new tends in communication technologies, interconnection and the development of new media industries would change many of the commercial aspects of Caribbean creativity. There was a discussion of the potential of e-commerce to transform the way in which the region's creative industries penetrate international markets, in the light of advances in information and communication technologies in recent years.
Speaking about the opportunities the sector presents Mr Lawrence Duprey, Executive Chairman of Trinidad's CL Financial Group , noted that music is one of the only industries that is able to penetrate markets at relatively low cost, and is a medium that can help build global brand recognition for the region and its products. "It is", he said, "incumbent on regional governments to support the creative industries through incentive programs and the creation of the necessary enabling environment with respect to financing institutions, given their critical role in adding new economic value to Caribbean economies."
The CRNM is to be applauded for this far-sighted initiative, and its plans to now bring to Ministers the concerns of the creative industry so that its position can be inserted into international trade negotiations.
Tourism, financial services, the creative industries, information technology and telecommunications already contribute significantly to the region's growth. Despite this, it is surprising how little is said in international meetings on the Caribbean or when Heads of Government gather, about these newer industries, their ability to build the region's intellectual capital or about the significant contribution they make to national wealth. Instead, most public debate and political dialogue still tends to focus on the older agricultural industries
There are some sound short-term reasons for this.
Governments remain concerned that if the transition out of preferential trade arrangements is too rapid, the underpinning that sugar, bananas and rice provide in terms of employment, stability and environmental support, will disappear. They argue that time is required to make such industries competitive or more efficient in order to develop value added applications. Alternatively, they are seeking the gradual run down of such industries so that over time they can develop retraining programmes and skills that will enable younger workers in agriculture to migrate to the service sector.
Tourism, financial services and the Caribbean's creative industries have the potential to add new value to Caribbean economies through employment, investment and foreign exchange earnings. For this reason, greater space needs to be made for all of the regions newer industries in inter-regional and in international meetings.
Tourism, the regions single largest industry and employer still has difficulty in having a separate hearing at most regional meetings. Moreover, its voice is rarely heard in Brussels or Geneva. While the Caribbean Hotel Association (CHA)and the Caribbean Tourism Organisation (CTO)are trying to remedy this.
In the case of the former, the CHA has produced a number of position papers on services negotiations, the single market and other topics - these have yet to fully impact on Ministerial or diplomatic presentations of the Caribbean's position.
The holding of a workshop on the region's creative industries points a way forward for the region's service sector. It will now be up to the CRNM, Trade Ministers and their Governments to ensure that the services sector as a whole, which is quite distinct from manufacturing and agriculture, is given the full hearing and the understanding that the whole of this vital and forward looking sector deserves. If this does not happen it will be all too easy for those in Europe and elsewhere who want to write off the region to argue that it remains backward looking.
About the author: David Jessop is the Director of the Caribbean Council Caribbean Council and can be contacted at by selecting his name at the top of the page.