Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, says it is critical that Jamaica begins to grasp opportunities to increase production and exports, even as the country is challenged to adapt to an ever changing trade environment.
Mr. Brown, who was speaking at a Validation Workshop for the Review and Revision of Jamaica’s Trade Policy at the Terra Nova Hotel, in Kingston, on
February 23, said a holistic approach must be taken in regard to the formulation and implementation of the revised trade policy, and that it forms an integral part of the country’s National Development Plan – Vision 2030.
Vision 2030 Jamaica is the country’s first long-term national development plan, which aims at enabling Jamaica to achieve developed country status by 2030. It is based on a comprehensive vision: “Jamaica, the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business."
Jamaica’s trade policy was last reviewed in 2001. The State Minister pointed out that a number of developments have occurred in international trade since then at the bilateral, regional and multilateral levels.
“Over the last ten years, while all these developments were occurring, Jamaica’s trade performance, particularly in exports, has remained of great concern. Our trade statistics show an ever widening trade deficit, with imports far outstripping exports in merchandise trade – this is certainly unsustainable,” he said.
Mr. Brown informed that in trading services, Jamaica registers a surplus, primarily because of tourism. The surplus in services, however, does not compensate for the deficit in merchandise trade, he pointed out.
“In the ten years, we have seen our exports in bananas decline, sugar has struggled and manufacturing has remained under pressure with the high cost of input, particularly energy,” the State Minister noted.
“This is complicated, of course, by the debt we have and the fact that we have not had significant and sustained growth over the period. In fact, it is known that growth has averaged one per cent per annum over that period,” he added.
Mr. Brown argued that Jamaica’s revised trade policy must take into account all the changes, which have occurred over the last few years, in order to ensure that the country’s trade policy is in line with the rest of the world.
“The Draft Trade Policy therefore is comprehensive, addressing goods and services, as well as a wide range of trade related measures, such as intellectual property rights, international standards, investment, non-tariff measures and trade financing, arising from an increasingly complex trade agenda,” he said.
He informed that the trade policy also takes into account the work being done to establish the CARICOM Single Market and Economy CSME), as there is a requirement that CARICOM member states harmonise their trade policies.
The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, in 2010, sought and received funding from TRADECOM, an EU/ACP funding facility based in Brussels, Belgium, to embark on a review and revision of Jamaica’s 10-year old Foreign Trade Policy. TRADECOM has selected SANAA Consulting, a firm based in the United Kingdom, to execute the project. The team is led by Dr. Phil Rourke of Canada and includes at least two Caribbean nationals, Francia Edwards and Diana Daley.
The Ministry has been working closely with the team of consultants, granting them support through its consultation and co-ordination mechanism, the Jamaica Trade and Adjustment Team (JTAT). Under the revision process, there have been a series of consultations, including meetings with the private sector and stakeholders outside of Kingston.
The State Minister encouraged stakeholders to continue to submit their comments and feedback on the draft policy, before the completion of the project at the end of March.
The session, which is part of a number of consultative meetings for formulation of the draft policy, was attended by representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the local business community, CARICOM and the EU.
Presentations were made by Deputy Programme Manager, CARICOM Secretariat, David Lord; Programme Manager, Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME) Unit, CARICOM, Ivor Carryl; Trade Consultant, Dr. Noel Watson; Consultant, Sanaa Consulting, Dr. Phil Rourke;Head of the Trade and Political Section, European Union Delegation, Tom Millar; Industrial Development Officer, United Nations Industrial Development Organisation, Otto Loesener and World Trade Organisation Councillor, Mario Kakabadse.
By Athaliah Reynolds-Baker, JIS Reporter