MONTGOMERY, Alabama – An Alabama delegation led by Commerce Secretary Greg Canfield arrives in the Dominican Republic today on a four-day trade and business development mission that focuses on ports, education and tourism.
This week’s trade mission follows a visit last year by the Dominican Trade Facilitation Group to Alabama, where the group received a close-up view of operations at the Port of Mobile, one of the nation’s busiest seaports.
The mission comes as trade ties between Alabama and the Dominican Republican continue to solidify. In 2014, Alabama exports to the Caribbean nation approached $104 million, an increase of 130 percent from the figure five years earlier. Top Alabama products shipped to the Dominican Republic are wood, minerals, paper and paperboard, vehicles, and iron and steel.
“The trade mission will give representatives of Alabama universities, tourism organizations, logistics firms and port authorities an opportunity to evaluate opportunities in the Dominican market,” Secretary Canfield said. “The mission offers them a rare chance to engage with key stakeholders and meet with national government officials and industry leaders.”
While in Santo Domingo, a port city of 1 million people and the nation’s capital, members of the Alabama delegation will attend a series of meetings keyed to their areas of interest, as well as a reception at the residence of U.S. Ambassador James Brewster Jr.
Secretary Canfield is scheduled to meet with the Minister of Industry and Commerce Jose Del Castillo Savinon, the executive director of the Dominican Port Authority, and officials of the Dominican Customs Authority. He will also meet with executives of several shipping companies operating in Santo Domingo.
Meanwhile, officials from Alabama universities will meet with a high-ranking official from the Ministry of Education, join a networking session and attend an education fair. Officials from Alabama who specialize in tourism will visit the Ministry of Cultural Exchange and meet with the Dominican Association of Travel Agents.
“Service exports are critical to Alabama’s economic engine and create many jobs back home,” said Hilda Lockhart, director of Commerce’s International Trade Division, who is on the trade mission. “We have been working to incorporate more of our service industries into our export strategy, and this trade mission is meant to promote Alabama service industries and help members of our delegation build mutually beneficial relationships in the Dominican market.”
The Dominican Republic, with a gross domestic product of nearly $60 billion, is the ninth-largest economy in Latin American and the second largest in the Caribbean region. Its population tops 10.3 million.
Bilateral trade has grown at a rapid pace since 2007, when the Central American and Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement (CAFTA-DR) went into effect.
Last year, Commerce and its partners in the Export Alabama Alliance embarked on a bioscience-focused trade mission to Belgium and The Netherlands, as well as business development missions to Thailand, Indonesia and Singapore and later Peru and Uruguay. The trip to Peru resulted in a formal agreement aimed at strengthening ties between Alabama and the South American country.