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Foreign Trade: Cement for the Region

Belize may be seeing an increase in the exportation and production of concrete in the coming months.  A cement production facility is currently under construction in Belize belonging to the Guatemalan company, Grupo Progreso.  Grupo Progreso recently acquired one hundred percent shares with a plan to expand its production across Central America.  The operations seem to have been stalled, however, as the plan was to have a grinding station operational by early last year.  Love News spoke with Minister of Foreign Trade Eamon Courtenay who says he knows little of the company, but he can speak on what the priority of the government is when it comes to investments and a fair share for local producers.

Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Immigration

Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade & Immigration: “I know of the company constructing a facility on the George Price highway and that they intend to make a significant investment in Belize. As to more details I am not privy to it at all. I can only assume that they have done their market study. I am not sure whether they intend to produce only for the domestic market or for export but I can tell you there is a very large or significant market in the Caribbean for example for cement. I can tell you that there is the Trinidad Cement, there is Jamaica Cement, Guyana owned by Mexicans that have significant facilities in those territories and they produce for domestic consumption and regional consumption so Progresso will have to compete against them. I can also tell you that there is a company called Hard Rock which imports cement from Turkey. I was involved in representing Trinidad Cement in that case, two cases actually before the CCJ on the importation versus domestic production and the application of the treaty. I was in fact this weekend informed by somebody in the CARICOM Secretariat that a third case has now been filed so Belize will be taking a look at that. It’s very important for us not only from a cement perspective but to ensure as best as possible that the jurisprudence of the court gives a preference to producers over importers and we will be looking at the case to see whether Belize will want to have any say because when you have a case in the original jurisdiction member states can apply to join because it’s an interpretation of the treaty and it will have an impact on all the member states so you’re entitled to join if you’re interested. So we were informed as I said on the weekend that another case has been filed and we’re looking at that because we want to ensure that Belizean producers enjoy their preference over importers.”

Love News understands that Progreso primarily has to with the cement, bag and lime for industrial purposes.  Concrete is not the only investment that the Ministry of Foreign Trade is looking at.  Minister Courtenay explained to our newsroom that there have been multiple meetings with potential investors.

Hon. Eamon Courtenay, Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade & Immigration:At this stage we are still in initial discussion with many people who present proposals and plans. There are many people who had started investments a year, two years ago, they are not complete and they’re bringing us up to speed. I think it will be wrong and unfair for me to publicly identify any particular investment or investor and say this person has come to the government with the following plan. I think at this stage a lot of things are under review and I would prefer to await the proper announcement of these things than for me to just identify specific things but there’s a lot of things that we’re looking at and I think it’s a signal of confidence that an expectation that people have that with a change of government hopefully there will be a new impetus and a new drive to attract investment and create jobs.”