KINGSTON — The Government has signaled its intention to sign off on the full implementation of the CARICOM/Costa Rica Free Trade Agreement soon.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Dr. Kenneth Baugh, said on August 9 that Jamaica has been applying the agreement on a provisional basis and has taken the decision to bring it into force.
He was addressing a delegation from Costa Rica led by Minister of Foreign Trade, Anabel González, at the Spanish Court Hotel in New Kingston.
Established in 2004, the CARICOM/Costa Rica FTA is intended to increase trade between CARICOM and the Central American country, by granting reciprocal duty-free or preferential access to a wide range of products. Jamaica is the only nation of the more developed countries of CARICOM that has not yet fully implemented the agreement.
Minister Baugh informed the Costa Ricans that Cabinet has endorsed the issuing of instructions for the drafting for the requisite amendments to the Customs Act to give effect to the arrangement.
With the implementation of the FTA, the Government is hoping to take advantage of opportunities to achieve more balanced trade with the Central American country. Dr. Baugh said that Costa Rica enjoys a massive trade surplus with Jamaica, with recent statistics showing that Jamaica has imported some US$50 million worth of goods from the country compared to exports of US$700,000.
He said that despite the imbalance, Jamaica has remained one of “Costa Rica’s largest importers from CARICOM".
“We are well aware that the objective of increasing exports cannot be achieved without significant growth in investments… One of the things that we have to do is to make sure that the countries that are involved in the trading agreements, (realise) that capacities exist for us to take advantage of the market places to which we have gained access,” he stated.
Dr. Baugh said that outside of trade, Jamaica is also looking to explore relations with Costa Rica in renewable energy, the construction of dams, and in the Information and Communication Technologies (ICT) sector. Minister Baugh also welcomed the interest demonstrated by the Costa Ricans in doing business in Jamaica.
“I believe that this…event marks the beginning of another level in our relations, the outcome of which I expect will be mutually rewarding. In this atmosphere of co-operation, all opportunities for trade and investment in goods with a view to the mutual benefit of both countries must be explored,” he stated.
Minister González, for her part, said she was pleased that the Jamaican government has decided to move forward to implement the FTA, noting that the Costa Rican Congress has already granted its approval “and we are ready to move forward”.
She informed that the agreement is in force in Trinidad and Tobago, Guyana, Barbados and Belize “with whom we have seen a positive growth of trade flows”. She noted that with trade between Jamaica and Costa Rica showing an average growth rate of close to seven per cent during the last decade, doubling from $23 million to close to $50 million, both countries stand to benefit.
She noted that the CARICOM/Costa Rica FTA would also provide small and medium-sized enterprises in both countries with better market access opportunities, which could strengthen the export platform and enhance competitiveness in both economies.
“I believe that PROCOMER (the Foreign Trade Corporation of Costa Rica) and Jamaica Promotions Corporation (JAMPRO) can work hand in hand in promoting the exchange of information, enhance confidence among our private sectors, business missions to explore existing opportunities, market studies and all that may be required to promote the prompt and effective use of the FTA as a powerful instrument for trade expansion and diversification for both of our countries,” she stated.
Minister González and her delegation, which included business leaders and entrepreneurs keen on developing new ties with their Jamaican counterparts, were in the island from August 8 to 9.
By ALECIA SMITH, JIS Reporter