JIS News

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  • Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson, said today that the growth prospects for world trade this year, were clouded by considerable uncertainty.
  • Dr. Robertson made the observation in his address at a World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade and Investment Workshop, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston
  • Citing preliminary figures from the WTO, Dr. Robertson said the growth in world trade last year was significantly above the 1.5 per cent increase in world output.

Minister of Development, Dr. Paul Robertson, said today that the growth prospects for world trade this year, were clouded by considerable uncertainty.

Dr. Robertson made the observation in his address at a World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade and Investment Workshop, held at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel in Kingston.

Citing preliminary figures from the WTO, Dr. Robertson said the growth in world trade last year was significantly above the 1.5 per cent increase in world output. “However, considerable uncertainty clouds trade growth prospects for 2003,” he added.

The Minister pointed to early indications which suggest that at less than 3 per cent, growth in trade volume for 2003 would be little or no better than 2002, and well below half the average rate of trade growth achieved in the 1990s, which was 6.7 per cent.

He said the downside risks on predictions for 2003 were large, bearing in mind the continued sluggishness in the world economy, the conflict in Iraq, and the possibility of the continuing spread of the Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS).

The WTO estimated that merchandise export earnings rose by 4 per cent to US$6,240 billion, nearly offsetting the decline of the preceding year. Commercial services trade expanded a little faster than merchandize trade, reaching a new record level of US$1,540 billion.

Trade performance largely mirrored the pattern of economic growth, the WTO 2002 Report noted. It said that trade expansion was strong in Asia and the economies in transition. North America’s imports recovered in line with stronger domestic demand, although exports decreased in 2002. Trade remained stagnant in Western Europe and Japan, while contracting in Latin America, as a result of economic turmoil in a number of countries in the region.

Dr. Robertson also cited Latin America’s merchandise imports last year, which declined by over 5 per cent, although merchandise exports rose by about 2 per cent, with the decline in intra-regional trade being balanced by increased shipment to other regions.

“That year was seen as one in which the region lost global trade share, with Jamaica’s export performance showing the impact of a slowing global economy and our overexposure to trade with North America,” the Minister said.

He pointed to a review of the export performance for most countries in the region by the International Trade Centre, which still showed the persistence of a one dimensional export strategy. He said the region was in transition from a heavy dependence on preferences, towards more competitive export markets, albeit with some discomfort.

Dr. Robertson said it was the job of both the Government and the private sector to ensure that the time, which was spent negotiating various trade agreements, was not wasted.

He argued that increased investment inflows must play a role in preparing the region to compete in the global environment.