Private sector entities are being urged to become more vigilant in monitoring, identifying, documenting and reporting suspected use of non-tariff measures (NTMs), which can affect trade.
This call comes from Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, who noted that in the past, complaints regarding this issue have mainly been anecdotal.
“We therefore urge you to acknowledge when issues have been resolved,” the Minster said, as he addressed the opening of a stakeholders’ consultation on NTMs affecting Jamaica at the Knutsford Court Hotel, in Kingston, on March 6.
NTMs are policy measures on export and import, other than ordinary customs tariffs, that can potentially have an effect on the international trade of goods.
Senator Nicholson noted that the Government is fully aware of the significant number of domestic companies that have reported burdensome and often times problematic formalities, procedures and measures in accessing regional markets.
“Cognizant of the persistent increase in non-tariff measures, as tariff rates have declined, the Government of Jamaica is pursuing an active strategy of collaborating with private sector stakeholders to identify and document evidence of impediments to Jamaica’s trade in order to address this issue in bilateral, regional and international negotiations,” he said.
In addition, the Minister said the Government is also working to improve its policy framework, quality infrastructure and level of certification of companies and procedures.
He pointed out that monitoring and documenting these barriers are becoming increasingly important given the massive increase in the use of NTMs, within the multi-lateral trading system, which are often times subsequent to the elimination of tariffs.
“In particular, developing countries like Jamaica are forced to comply with a wide range of technical regulations, product standards and administrative procedures that frustrate our efforts at market access,” he said.
“Additionally, Jamaican manufacturers themselves, both importers and exporters, have also continually expressed concerns about the high cost of doing business in Jamaica, which arises from excessively onerous bureaucratic processes and arbitrariness in the approach to trade facilitation locally,” he said.
The Minister said this is why the Government of Jamaica, through the Ministries of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Industry, Investment and Commerce, and Agriculture and Fisheries, “have continued to pay close attention to developments within the multilateral trading system that may constitute unfair and undue barriers to trade.”
Stakeholders met to discuss the preliminary findings of a survey on NTMs affecting Jamaica undertaken by the International Trade Centre (ICT), in partnership with the Foreign Affairs Ministry, between August 2011 and February 2012.
The survey identified the main obstacles the Jamaican business sector currently faces when complying with NTMs at product, sector and partner country levels.
The Minister noted that the findings of the survey “are extremely important, providing empirical evidence on barriers to trade whether real, imagined or perceived.”
According to the ITC’s Executive Director, Patricia Francis, NTMs cover a wide range of issues, from technical regulations and certification requirements to procedural hassles in obtaining export permits or clearing customs.
She noted that while NTMS have a legitimate aim, for example, when they are applied to protect human, animal and plant lives, or to ensure the security of the national borders, these measures “can also act as protectionist tools in which case they do not only act as barriers to trade, but can have a negative impact on the competitiveness of a country’s economy.”
“Over the last decade, NTMS have become a major impediment to international trade and market access. It is an area of particular concern to exporters and importers, especially in developing countries,” she said.