Region’s banking sector doing well amid crisis

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, January 30, 2009 – Canada’s High Commissioner to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean says the Caribbean’s banking sector is in better shape than most others around the world. And he says this can be partially attributed to Canada’s financial sector holding its head above water in the ongoing world financial crisis.

In his feature address to the Barbados International Business Association monthly luncheon yesterday, David Marshall assured the audience, mostly made up of employees of Canadian international business companies domiciled in Barbados, that Canada’s financial sector was not faring as bad as its other North American counterparts.

“Without being complacent, Canada is in a relatively better condition than many countries, certainly Iceland, and the banking system of course is sound, well capitalized, (and) is not receiving any bailouts. I think the OECD mentioned that the Canadian banking system is among the best in the world, and of course the Caribbean benefits as well because so much of it is served by Canadian banking parents, so that’s a positive,” he said.

Last year, the Royal Bank of Canada bought over the assets of RBTT Bank of Trinidad, making it now one of the largest bank operating in this region; FirstCaribbean International Bank, which is also spread throughout the Caribbean and Central America, is majority owned by the Canadian Imperial Bank of Commerce (CIBC); while Scotiabank has a strong presence in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.

Marshall reminded the audience that Canada’s engagement with this region goes back over 100 years and his government remains committed to the relationship.

He noted that in 2007, the Canadian government doubled its direct development aid to the region from CAN $300 million to CAN $600 million, likely making that North American country the Caribbean’s largest bilateral partner.

Touching on the new trade agreement that is slated to succeed the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement, known as CaribCan, Marshall added that the new deal would likely provide the Caribbean with even more access to Canadian funding.

He said the new agreement would also likely lock in the preferential treatment afforded through CaribCan to Caribbean goods imported by Canada, which is currently not compliant with World Trade Organisation rules because of the non-reciprocal nature of the current preferential access.

He also assured that Canada would take into account capacity constraints among Caribbean nations once the negotiations got underway.