The Government’s investment promotion agency, Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI) is exploring the possibility of establishing joint venture investment linkages between Jamaican entrepreneurs and their Chinese counterparts, particularly in the areas of textiles and tourism, JTI President, Robert Gregory, has disclosed.
These were two of the main areas in which mutual interest of possible business partnerships was expressed by stakeholders participating in a Jamaica-China Business Dialogue convened at JTI’s New Kingston offices last week. The meeting brought together officials from JTI; the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC), and other local private sector representatives; and a visiting high-level delegation from the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT).
The meeting followed a Caribbean-China Business Dialogue convened the previous week by the Caribbean Export Development Agency (CEDA) in Barbados, which also facilitated Jamaican business interests interfacing directly with the visiting delegates on matters of trade and investment.
Noting that the participants had “good discussions” in Barbados, Mr. Gregory informed that in the area of textiles, the parties explored partnerships incorporating West Indian Sea Island Cotton.
President of Jamaica Trade and Invest, Robert Gregory (right), along with Vice chairman of the China Council for the Promotion of International Trade (CCPIT), Dong Songgen (left), peruse the contents of a book titled, ‘Jamaica’, produced by renowned Jamaican photographer, Ray Chen, which the JTI head presented as a gift to the Chinese official, following a meeting between Jamaican and Chinese business interests at JTI’s New Kingston offices last week to discuss the possibilities of strengthening entrepreneurial ties between both countries. Looking on in the background are other members of the delegation who attended the meeting.
“We grow it here and export the lint to Europe, where they process it into the fine fabric that is input for our world class designers. However, China does that process of creating the fabric from the lint, far cheaper than what obtains in Europe. So we are very interested in partnering with China in this area,” the JTI President explained.
He posited that West Indian Sea Island Cotton would create a competitive advantage for Jamaican designs, and present the opportunity for value-added products. He pointed out that some 85 to 90 per cent of the value of fashion creations go to the designer and marketing and distribution, while 10 to 15 per cent goes to the manufacturer.
“It is quite possible to outsource the manufacturing to China and for us to control the lion’s share of the value, which is based in intellectual property and the marketing and distribution. So this possibility that we’re talking about, is very real to us,” Mr. Gregory stated.
Chief Executive Officer of the Jamaica Agricultural Development Foundation (JADF), which oversees the development of West Indian Sea Island Cotton locally, Vitus Evans, also endorsed the value-added component advanced.
“What we are hoping is that if there is an opportunity to enter into some joint arrangement with China to make the fabric, we can enjoy the benefits of the production. There is undoubtedly a strong demand for West Indian Sea Island Cotton and we are satisfied that Jamaica has enough land and people to produce the cotton successfully,” he said.
Mr. Evans added that with the renewal of friendly relations with Japanese interests on the horizon, in the wake of a legal battle over the over the West Indian Sea Island Cotton trademark, Jamaica would be in an excellent position to boost its level of production and resume export to that market. Jamaica earned some US$480,000 (J$42.6 million from cotton lint exports in 2008.
Speaking through an interpreter, Deputy Secretary-General of the China National Textile and Apparel Council, Xu Yingxin, hinted at the possibility of linking West Indian Sea Island Cotton interests with partners in China.
“What we can do is to introduce West Indian Sea Island Cotton to Chinese textile companies and help you to promote (it) in China. If possible, I would like to invite Jamaica to organise a small group to visit China and introduce the product (there),” he said.
Regarding tourism, Mr. Gregory said Jamaica is interested in capturing a significantly greater portion of the Chinese market. The Asian country recorded some 48 million outbound tourists in 2008, with a spending power of US$6000 per person.
European tourism markets account for 40 percent of Chinese visitors, with another 20 per cent travelling to the United States.
“In order to get a little stimulation going, we are proposing that a Chinese hotel chain invest in building authentic hotels in Jamaica, so as to provide a familiar base for Chinese tourists to come to Jamaica. I think that this is something worth pursuing, and once we have that familiar base then airlift can be negotiated and we can spread out from there,” the JTI President outlined.
Other areas of mutual interest discussed at the meeting in Kingston, included: infrastructure and construction; manufacturing; and information and communications technology (ICT).
Head of the Chinese delegation, CCPIT Vice President, Dong Songgen, was optimistic about future economic co-operation between both countries, noting that the Chinese Government is keen on strengthening ties with Jamaica, based on the excellent bi-lateral relations and complementary business interests shared.
“Jamaica has a lot of priority industries and China is interested in co-operating with Jamaica in those areas. China is attracting a lot of foreign investment, and we, also, are conducting a lot of outbound investments. What is important for us, is to increase the channels of communication and bring the right people together,” Mr. Dong underscored.