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Story Highlights

  • The Government is to abolish a range of import and export fees payable to the Trade Board Limited and other such entities, in order to increase Jamaica’s chances of global competitiveness.
  • Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, says that “between seven and 10 of them” that have been identified are no longer relevant and will be submitted to Cabinet for consideration.
  • The Minister was speaking at the launch of the National Foreign Trade Policy and Consultancy for the National Trade Information Portal, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on October 4.

The Government is to abolish a range of import and export fees payable to the Trade Board Limited and other such entities, in order to increase Jamaica’s chances of global competitiveness.

Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Minister, Hon. Audley Shaw, says that “between seven and 10 of them” that have been identified are no longer relevant and will be submitted to Cabinet for consideration.

The Minister was speaking at the launch of the National Foreign Trade Policy and Consultancy for the National Trade Information Portal, held at The Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston on October 4.

“Some of these charges are extraneous and unnecessarily burdensome on our importers and exporters… . We must be practical. We cannot use the fees as a feeding tree without considering if the revenue is relevant, and if it is not, get rid of it,” he said.

“We must make our money in other ways. We need to make our money, for instance, from the volume of business, not by being overly burdensome on the few businesses that we have,” Mr. Shaw continued.

Both policy initiatives are the result of collaboration between the Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Ministry and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade.

Chairperson of the Trade Facilitation Task Force, Patricia Francis, in an interview with JIS News, noted that the fees being targeted are for “low-risk products,” which would not need a permit to be brought into the country.

Meanwhile, Mr. Shaw noted that the National Trade Information Portal “is an essential and complementary piece of a larger ongoing thrust, which includes the National Electronic Single Window and the work of the National Competitiveness Council towards improving the country’s ranking on international indices”.

An online platform, the portal will help improve the predictability and transparency of the country’s business environment and will provide foreign and domestic investors with quick and timely access to trade rules and regulations.

Expected to go live in mid-2019, the portal will also house all laws, regulations, procedures and other measures affecting trade procedures.

The modern trading architecture will be hosted by the Trade Board Limited under the Ministry, with technical support from the World Bank Group.

Mr. Shaw said it is necessary “to continue adding to the portal’s growing body of knowledge to ensure [its] effectiveness as a tool for traders”.

“Own the portal. Invest in its success by providing useful and timely information which will redound to our mutual benefit. I am urging our large businesses and start-ups to make the best use of the portal and give continuous feedback to aid its improvement,” he encouraged.

For her part, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. Kamina Johnson Smith, said the National Foreign Trade Policy is geared towards mainstreaming trade, international development policies, plans and strategies.

The policy is intended to provide a blueprint for Jamaica’s trading relationship with the world and provide the business community with a one-stop shop to get information on import-export regulations and procedures.

It also seeks to facilitate the maintenance and development of rules, providing predictability and security for firms engaged in trade.

“The policy must embrace other policies and strategies in order to promote trade in goods and services [that] meet international standards. It is also essential that we meet demand in external markets and enhance export performance leading to job creation and welfare gains,” she said.

Senator Johnson Smith underscored the importance of trade to Jamaica’s growth agenda, which accounts for nearly 90 per cent of gross domestic product.

Meanwhile, Director General of the World Trade Organization (WTO), Roberto Azevêdo, said the two policy initiatives “highlight Jamaica’s goal to mainstream trade into its national development policies and will go a long way in integrating Jamaica into the global trading system”.

In the meantime, Senior Public Sector Specialist of the World Bank Group, Joana Watkins, said her agency has been providing support for the launch of portals around the world since 2012 in South Asia and dozens of other countries.

“This information portal will be the first in the English-speaking Caribbean and will set the standard for the region when it is launched a year from now,” she explained.