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    Minister of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Olivia Grange, Friday (April 3), called on countries of the European Community to re-examine current visa regimes, in order to give Jamaican creative personnel easier access to European markets.
    Speaking on the second of a two-day International Conference on ‘Creativity and Culture’, in Brussels, Belgium, the Minister said that while the recently-signed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between European and Cariforum countries offered duty free access to European markets for Jamaican cultural products, most developing countries would face barriers getting goods and services to the region, because of the rigidity of visa regimes.
    “The idea of being able to showcase your products to the 500 million strong European market is among the most appealing elements of the EPA. However, this seems like an empty promise if people are unable to enter the region, because they either don’t qualify, or can’t afford a visa. In order for us to benefit from this protocol within the EPA, our creative entrepreneurs will need to be mobile on the ground in Europe. And the current visa regime does not suggest that this would be the case,” she pointed out.
    “Europe needs to engage the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in a process of facilitating mobility, including easier entry and circulation in developed countries for our cultural professionals. We need improved and rapid visa access and lower costs,” the Minister added.
    Miss Grange received firm support from the ACP delegates who participated in a wide range of workshops and discussions on the economics of culture, over the two days.
    The Minister’s presentation was titled – ‘Creative Industries in Jamaica and their access to international markets: The challenge for cultural policy’.
    Using a visual display to showcase Jamaica’s consistent cultural output – from Bob Marley to Usain Bolt – the Minister called on Europe to provide the necessary technical and financial assistance to help countries, such as Jamaica, develop the capacity to fully exploit their creative potential.She told the audience that the answers to Jamaica’s economic challenges reside within the nation’s creative industries.
    “We have the potential to solve our economic problems using our cultural resources. Our creative sectors now account for 5.2 per cent of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) – more than some of our traditional sectors. We could multiply this threefold, if we had the capacity to harness the talents and create the structures which give form to a vibrant creative industry,” Miss Grange said.
    She called on the European Community to move speedily in the provision of developmental assistance for infrastructure enhancement, capacity building and professional training for the strengthening of the domestic cultural sector.
    The Minister also offered a raft of recommendations for the European Community to consider, including the provision of support and expertise in policy development and special fiscal measures and incentives, such as tax credits and double taxation avoidance agreements.
    During the closing ceremony, Miss Grange presented Louis Michel, European Commissioner for Development and Humanitarian Aid, with a Usain Bolt shirt and collection of reggae CDs.
    The popularity of Brand Jamaica was in evidence as the crowd cheered heartily at the mention of Bolt and Bob Marley.
    The Minister was supported by Jamaica’s Ambassador to the European Community, Marcia Gilbert-Roberts, and Principal Director of Culture in the Ministry of Information, Culture, Youth and Sports, Sidney Bartley.

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