**Carlos M. Gutierrez
US Secretary of Commerce**

Commerce Secretary Carlos M. Gutierrez addressed Caribbean leaders in Washington yesterday, on the occasion of the **Conference on the Caribbean: 20/20 Vision**. He said, *”Competitiveness is a timely topic for the Caribbean,”*noting that the World Bank has highlighted significant progress in the Caribbean on setting rules for business — including rules on start-ups, bankruptcy, contract enforcement, and the legal rights of borrowers and lenders. There are differences on how these rules are implemented, however, with a World Bank report highlighting that countries have diverged on implementation of these regulations resulting in wide regional differences. He pointed out that a key pillar of competitiveness is the development of small businesses, a critical element for the smaller Caribbean nations. *”Sparking and sustaining innovation, creating solutions in education and workforce development, and designing successful global supply chains are issues of critical importance to all economies, but even more so, to the smaller ones.”*

The Commerce Secretary was encouraged by moves by the Caribbean nations to diversify beyond textiles and sugar trade, to tourism and financial services — industries which, he said, will help them better compete in the global economy. *”Technology makes geography less of an obstacle to the trade of good and services. But governments must create an environment for business to flourish so societies can reap the benefits of this opportunity.”*

This 2007 event, resulting from a series of meetings between officials from both the US and CARICOM, has been designed to strengthen the existing relationship between the United States and the Caribbean Community. Participants are charged with developing a vision of the future relationship between the two, and focusing on the way forward to achieve the various developmental objectives for the Caribbean.

Organisers say that it is expected the end of the conference will see the following major objectives met:

• The strengthening of the relationship between the United States and CARICOM by addressing the priority areas for the future Caribbean growth and development including issues related to trade, competitiveness and investment in mutually beneficial and reinforcing ways.

• The deepening and broadening of the dialogue between the Governments and People of CARICOM and the Government and People of the United States of America which should result in the renewed appreciation of the policy makers for the potential of the Caribbean.

• The strengthening of the relationship among the Caribbean Diaspora in the United States as well as the energizing of the Diaspora and friends of the Caribbean in support of the Region’s Development.

• The enhancement of the image of the Caribbean in the United States.

BFSB’s CEO & Executive Director, Wendy C. Warren, is participating in the IDB-hosted Private Sector Dialogue component of the Conference. Today, she presents on ***”Financial Services as an Engine of Growth.”***