Minister of State for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, says it is critical that public and private sector entities give priority to increasing exports to all markets, particularly those within the region, even as the Government works to develop a strategy to improve the country’s trade deficit.
Mr. Brown noted that as a country, "we have to do an assessment and implement a deliberate strategy to increase our exports to the CARICOM market, as well as to all other trading partners".
He was making his contribution to the 2012/13 Sectoral Debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (July 10).
Citing the potential in the region, Mr. Brown said that while Haiti represented the second largest export market for the Dominican Republic, CARICOM exports to the country remain at comparatively low levels. He said that despite geographic proximity and other advantages, Jamaica is not doing enough to explore and penetrate this market of almost 10 million people.
"We are encouraged, however, by the foray of Jamaica Broilers into the Haitian market and encourage other private sector entities to follow suit. The Ministry, as well as Jamaica’s Honorary Consul in Port-au-Prince is ready to provide assistance and advice to interested entities,” he remarked.
The State Minister also noted that there are possible opportunities for investment within other member states of CARICOM, particularly Guyana, Suriname and Belize. These are large territories, he pointed out, with good water supply, fertile lands, abundant natural resources, and a low population density.
"I believe that there are opportunities here for our private sector to explore, taking advantage of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, including the right of establishment, to partner with these and other countries in the development of goods for exports both within the region and to external markets,” he stated.
"The Jamaican private sector, including our micro, small and medium sized enterprises (MSMEs), must be encouraged to further seek out the possibilities in these markets in which they could have a competitive advantage,” he added.
Mr. Brown gave the assurance that his Ministry would work at the bilateral level with individual CARICOM member states “to see concretely, what the opportunities are and to get some clarity on the potential terms and conditions, so that the private sector can make informed choices”.
"We must, as a Government, continue to facilitate our private sector in terms of trade and market access information, marketing tools, facilitation of trade missions, enhancement of productive capacity and improvement in standards,” he remarked.
He further encouraged Jamaican producers to become more aggressive in their bid to access regional and international markets, noting that when faced with obstacles in those markets, local producers should not quietly concede and withdraw.
"If there are clear indications of non-tariff barriers being mounted or violations of agreed trade rules, they must defend their position whether through diplomatic or legal channels to retain their market access. The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade stands ready to assist in this regard,” he stated.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter