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D.R. Expanding Business Ties With Puerto Rico

New Trade & Investment specialist is appointed to consulate general; to target businesses here as partners


March 17, 2005
Copyright © 2005 CARIBBEAN BUSINESS. All Rights Reserved.

As its closest neighbor, the Dominican Republic’s (D.R.) contacts with Puerto Rico are extensive and the proof is in the trade figures.

According to the Puerto Rico Planning Board, the two-way trade between Puerto Rico and the D.R. was more than $1.4 billion in fiscal 2004. Puerto Rico’s exports to the D.R. were $757.5 million and that was an increase of $106.7 million over the figure in fiscal 2003, which was $650.8 million.

At the same time, the D.R.’s exports to Puerto Rico have been contracting for the past three years. Their total in fiscal 2004 was $661.7 million, down $23.8 million from fiscal 2003’s $685.5 million. That total was also a decline from the fiscal 2002 figure of $706.5 million. The decline in the exports of the D.R. to Puerto Rico reflects some of the economic problems the D.R. has experienced in recent years.

President Leonel Fernández returned to the presidency last August. Although confronted with a myriad of problems at home he has set several objectives to restore the traditional relationship between the D.R. and Puerto Rico and strengthen and expand it. One has been to "beef up" the nation’s consulate general in San Juan. He appointed as Consul General Eladio Espinal Villafaña, a long time resident of Puerto Rico who has been active in the growing Dominican community.

For the first time, the Dominican leader also designated as a vice consul specifically responsible for business affairs, one of his supporters, Adalberto Bejaran, who is an experienced businessman and previously served as director of the D.R. tourism office in San Juan when Fernández was president before (1996-2000).

"My orders are to strengthen and expand the relations of the D.R. government with the private sector in Puerto Rico and to facilitate plans for doing business with the D.R.," said Bejaran, who accepted the challenge. "I’ve been assigned five people to assist in commercial services and we are already receiving more than 10 calls a day from people interested in doing business with the D.R. We find that very encouraging."

Growing relationship with the Cibao

Indicating that the Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce has cooperation agreements with the chambers of commerce in the capital as well as in Santiago in the rich Cibao central region, Bejaran said, "We intend to build on these well-established relationships that have been very successful."

He pointed to the popular trade fairs held annually in Santiago, which attract many businesspeople from Puerto Rico. "Businesspeople in the Cibao region are planning to have a similar trade fair here in Puerto Rico later this year," he said. "They actually have a Puerto Rico Chamber of Commerce in Santiago. We want to assist parties on both sides to match up together to increase trade."

Bejaran works closely with the Center for the Promotion of Exports & Investments in the D.R. in Santo Domingo, which is headed by Eddie Martínez, who headed a similar agency during the first Fernández administration. "The new agency has a much larger mandate and its experienced staff knows the business community in Puerto Rico and how to meet its needs," said Bejaran.

In order to further familiarize businesspeople in Puerto Rico with the D.R. and the opportunities it affords, Bejaran is talking to Sandro Murtas, the director of the Small Business Development Center at Inter-American University, about conducting a seminar on doing business in the D.R. "I recently attended his very successful seminar on China and I think it is a valuable vehicle for promoting business exchange for the D.R.," said Bejaran.

Pointing out the D.R. has entered into a number of trade agreements with the U.S., the European Union, Mexico, Caricom, Central America, Panama, Chile, and Venezuela, Bejaran said, "An increasing number of businesspeople in Puerto Rico are recognizing that by entering into joint ventures with partners in the D.R., they can access other markets more beneficially and grow their businesses."

Puerto Rico: Our closest neighbor and oldest friend

Acknowledging the U.S., including Puerto Rico, is the largest trading partner of the D.R., Bejaran said that "while President Fernández greatly values this relationship, he envisions our country developing a much more diversified network of trading partners. He [Fernández] also views a cooperating role for Puerto Rico in this strategy because it is our closest neighbor and oldest friend."

Bejaran apologized for the absence of Consul General Espinal explaining he was summoned urgently to Santo Domingo following the tragic fire in the Higüey prison, which claimed 135 lives. "We have been very moved by the tremendous sympathy extended to us following this catastrophe," said Bejaran. "We are very grateful for the assistance of the government of Puerto Rico as well as the generosity of all of our friends here."

Bejaran, a native of Monte Cristi, was educated in physical education but decided early on that he liked business instead. First, he worked in his family’s cattle business before joining a company that provides services in the construction field.

This Caribbean Business article appears courtesy of Casiano Communications.
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