Industry Minister Defends Slag Cement Imports


Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Karl Samuda, has refuted claims by Caribbean Cement Company Limited (CCCL) that a waiver on 65,000 tonnes of slag cement, imported by TankWeld Metals, would cost the Government some $100 million in duties.
“People are not bound to bring in anything into this country. They bring it in if it makes a profit. If we impose a tariff that makes it uncompetitive and uneconomical to import, it will not be imported and there will be no taxes collected,” Mr. Samuda told a press briefing at his Ministry’s New Kingston offices Thursday (March 15).
The Minister stressed that the focus cannot only be on the ability to produce cement, but also to supply in quantities that enable protection against shortages, especially where it affects crucial industries such as construction.
“We have seen what has happened in the past, when we did not have adequate supplies of cement.we scrambled to get adequate supplies into the country in order to keep the construction industry going,” he explained.
Mr. Samuda said that, so far, Carib Cement has not demonstrated that they are prepared to provide the levels of inventory that would give Jamaica protection against the possibility of a cement shortage.
He reiterated that this type of cement is not on the list of items ineligible for a conditional duty exemption. In terms of slag cement, there is no provision for the application of CET, he added.
“(It’s a) different product. It is right that we get the best product, that we introduce into the mix, a level of competition, and this was accepted by Carib Cement Company when they agreed and signed off on the 15 per cent for the private sector to import cement,” Mr. Samuda outlined.
He emphasized that his Ministry has not recommended restricted use or distribution of slag cement, and supports TankWeld’s request for duty free imports of a limited amount of 60,000 tonnes per annum.
Mr. Samuda also said that the Government is confident that the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) will grant approval for a provision that enables a small percentage of cement to be imported, by the private sector, from extra regional sources.
He said that, in fact, Jamaica’s proposal at the 28th and 29th COTED meetings, for the liberalization of some 15 per cent of the regional cement market, was noted by Heads of Government, and COTED is to consider the proposal at its next meeting in May.
He added that without this kind of arrangement there will be prices increases, over which the Government would have no control.
Last August, the Government sought to obtain a CET waiver from COTED on 170,000 tonnes of cement. This was reduced to 120,000 tonnes in September, following discussions with CCCL but, in November, the CARICOM Secretariat advised that the waiver would not be granted.
Mr. Samuda reiterated that he has a difficulty with the provision in the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which speaks to the eligibility of certain products for a CET waiver.
“If we regard the determination as to whether CET is applied to a product strictly on the basis that that product can be made within the CARICOM region, without consideration for the ability to store and protect the interest of each member state, it is a shortcoming and must be addressed,” he stated.

JIS Social