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Prime Minister Bruce Golding says Jamaica’s entertainment industry will experience a major boost when the Economic Partnership Agreement between Cariforum countries and the European Community comes into effect later this year.
He told a group of British journalists at a luncheon at the Jamaican High Commission in London that reggae music had the potential to become one of Jamaica’s biggest commercial exports.
Mr Golding was on a four-city whistle-stop tour of the UK. He met with the Jamaican community in London, Birmingham, Manchester and Nottingham.
He said that a deal secured under the EPA provided for the removal of duties on cultural services, paving the way for the wholesale export of Jamaica’s culture.
Noting that 25 of 27 European companies had agreed to the terms to allow Jamaican cultural products hassle-free entry into Europe, he said Jamaica could immediately start to take advantage of the opportunities presented.
“We have been holding seminars to sensitise the players in the industry as to what the EPA means for them. Reggae music is a commodity that is available readily. We can immediately start exporting our music and giving our cultural practitioners that greater access to markets,” he said.
The Prime Minister was asked about the image of reggae music on the international scene, primarily among people who view the music as an outburst of homophobia.
He said the time had come for a comprehensive marketing plan for reggae music.
“I think we have left ourselves exposed for a while, to the extent that our music has never been promoted and marketed in the way tourism that tourism is. For example, whenever there is negativity in the marketplace that affects tourism, we have a strategy to address that. Reggae music is too important for us to allow it to become victim of the actions of minority of artistes who have allowed their own passions to overflow to the extent that they could damage an entire industry.
“Why should we allow a Luciano or Beres Hammond to suffer and end up with their shows being affected because some artiste was here a week before who went on stage and said something he shouldn’t have? We have to do some work to protect and preserve reggae as a medium and a genuine indigenous expression of Jamaican culture,” said Mr Golding.
Under the EPA Jamaican artistes will be allowed to enter and perform in participating European countries for periods of up to six months at a time.