The International Finance Corporation (IFC), the private sector arm of the World Bank Group, has announced that Banco Multiple Leon of the Dominican Republic, is the first issuing bank to join its Global Trade Finance Program in the Caribbean.

IFC has approved a trade line for Banco Leon, the third largest private commercial bank in the Dominican Republic with strong penetration in the commercial and corporate sectors.

Salem Rohana, IFC’s resident representative for the Dominican Republic, says: “A key objective of IFC in the Caribbean region is to support import-oriented companies and the growth of small and medium enterprises. The Global Trade Finance Program greatly helps us implement this strategy.”

The US$500mn Global Trade Finance Program promotes trade with emerging markets worldwide by supporting flows of goods and services to and from developing countries. Through the program, IFC provides guarantee coverage of bank risk in emerging markets, allowing recipients to expand their trade finance transactions within an extensive network of countries and banks and to enhance their trade finance coverage.

Antonio Alves, IFC’s Latin America trade specialist, adds: “IFC’s Global Trade Finance Program will allow Banco Leon to increase its trade finance business in the region by establishing relationships with banks in countries that export to the Dominican Republic, such as Brazil, Mexico, and Colombia. Banco Leon will also be able to offer more trade finance products to its clients.”

Manuel Pea-Morros, Banco Leon’s president, says: “We are delighted to begin a relationship with IFC through the Global Trade Finance Program. This will allow us to continue supporting our development while enhancing the potential for international trade companies in the Dominican Republic.”

Banco Leon is a medium-size bank with 56 branches, half in the metropolitan area of Santo Domingo. In addition to its strong position in the credit card market, trade finance has been a strategic priority for the bank especially for letters of credit and import financing.