The Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry has been involved over the past year with establishing the supportive structures to help local companies be successful in expanding their business beyond the island’s borders. In discussions with representatives of other countries and business leaders who are interested in finding new markets, the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry highlights the importance of Curaçao’s strategic positioning: close to Latin and South America both geographically and culturally, situated outside the hurricane belt, and excellent modern infrastructure. Through the cultivation of relationships and ongoing trade missions, the framework is developed and in place for when local companies are ready to branch out, they can flourish.

During November 11-13, 2018, the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry was an active participant in the Kingdom of the Netherlands’ Mission to Panama, which offered an opportunity to explore general business opportunities but also focus on the water and logistics sectors. Continuing the momentum of the trip, Prime Minister Eugene Rhuggenaath hosted a return visit from February 4-5, 2019, organized by the Embassy of the Kingdom of the Netherlands based in Panama. The event involved 45 visiting companies and enabled Curaçao to showcase the unique assets of the island while exploring options for trade in Panama. The successful seminar entitled, “Doing Business with Panama”, was fully booked illustrating the local interest in the topic.

Prime Minister Rhuggenaath also led a Kingdom Mission to Panama and Costa Rica from March 17-21, 2019, taking along 10 Curaçao businesses to discuss the oppor­tunities for import and export between the respective countries plus focus on the mari­time, agriculture and logistics sectors. Several productive meetings and company visits took place, resulting with a Memorandum of Understanding signed between the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Chamber of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture of Panama, binding the rela­tionship between the two countries. This agreement emphasized the need for reci­procity and both Chambers are committed to supporting those who want to do business beyond the borders of their home country.

The trip to Panama also gave members of the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry the opportunity to visit the Panama Holland House, one of the founding members of the innovative support system being set up to help businesses in the Dutch Kingdom expand into new markets.

Holland House Panama is now open for business!

Minister for Commerce & Industry Ramón Martínez, Minister for Private Investments Rojas, Dutch Ambassador Ilse Smits and Executive Director Remco de Bruijn officially opened the Hol­land House on the 4th of September 2019 in the Cámara de Comercio, Industrias y Agricultura de Panamá in Panama City.

Holland House Panama will offer international business support & networking to Dutch & Pana­mian companies and reinforce trade & investment ties between the two countries. As an expres­sion of this, an MoU between the Port of Rotterdam and the Panama Canal Authority was signed during the event.

The opening took place in the presence of the founding members of the Holland House: The HEINEKEN Company Vopak Philips VTTI B.V. Van Oord Boskalis KLM Curaçao Chamber of Com­merce & Industry NLinBusiness and the Netherlands Embassy in Panama City.

The hub function of Panama creates a lot of business opportunities for Dutch companies. Alt­hough a significant number of companies are already present in Panama, mainly small and medium enterprises (SME) often do not take this step yet. One of the issues identified in the roadmap of a company potentially expanding to Latin America, is the lack of an institution that can provide a soft landing for newly arriving companies in Panama. This is where Holland House Panama comes into play.

In the form of a bilateral chamber of commerce Holland House offers services to companies interested in expanding their business to Panama, but also provides already existing companies with better networking opportunities and access to trainings and briefing.

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In November 2018, nearly 140 companies from across the Dutch Kingdom participated in a successful four-day trade mission to Colombia. The businesses were mostly from the Netherlands, but around 20 Curaçao-based companies were represented in the mission, which was led by Curaçao’s Prime Minister Rhuggenaath. Water and logistics were again key topics, including visits to important areas for these sectors such as Cartagena and Barranquilla.

One important outcome of the trade mis­sion was the signing of a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) between the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry and the Bogota Chamber of Commerce. In the MoU, it was agreed that both parties would work to develop an even closer relationship through the regular exchange of information and training materials allowing companies in Curaçao to explore the market in Bogota and vice versa. Reflecting the significance of online communications, the MoU also pro­vided for reciprocal promotion of social media activity conducted by the Chambers, sharing business opportunities to entrepreneurs in both Colombia and across the Kingdom. It is notable that the mission involved both the new Colombian President, Ivan Duque, and the Dutch Prime Minister, Mark Rutte.

The Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry assisted a trade delegation of 10 companies from Puerto Rico during their visit to Curaçao from February 18-20, 2019. A diverse range of sectors were represented, including food and beverage, car care, con­sulting and renewable energy. Working with the Puerto Rico Trade Company, the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry orga­nized a two-hour free seminar on “Doing Business with Puerto Rico”, which was fully booked with local entrepreneurs. Many attendees also took advantage of the individ­ual matchmaking sessions organized by the Chamber allowing the visiting companies to meet with local businesses and explore opportunities for collaboration.

Not forgetting Curaçao’s oldest trading part­ner, the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry participated in the “Bon Bini for Business” summit from January 21-22, 2019, welcoming 45 Dutch investors and entrepreneurs for a series of events, pre­sentations and opportunities to meet potential partners. Prime Minister Rutte and State Secretary of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, Raymond Knops, both attended the event which was hosted by Prime Minister Rhuggenaath. Speaker after speaker highlighted the opportunities offered by the infrastructure, financial, and information communication and technology services in Curaçao, in addition to the potential for sig­nificant economic collaboration within the Dutch Kingdom.

The opportunities for increased business outside the island are significant and local businesses are encouraged to “Think Big”. Follow the Curaçao Chamber of Commerce and Industry Facebook page to keep up to date with forthcoming events in Curaçao and overseas trade missions.

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