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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, has said that the time has come for a transformation of the Jamaican economy, moving from a period of jobless, marginal growth to targeted industrialisation, focussing on exports of goods and services.
“We must focus on quality, innovation and creativity, in order to enhance our place in the market,” Minister Baugh stated, as he addressed the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) implementation seminar held yesterday (Jan. 13), at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston.
According to the Foreign Affairs Minister, it is time for Jamaica to build efficiency through the modernisation of the productive processes using cutting-edge technologies. “It is time for Jamaica to fulfill its appointment with destiny,” he emphasised, while calling on the rest of the Caribbean, including Jamaica, to act as hubs of trade and investments to move goods, labour and services to the rest of the world.
“At the end of the day, we are also cognisant of the challenges that the current world economy presents to us. We will have to compete with exports from more developed and larger countries, which have better technology, lower costs and more subsidies at their disposal,” he pointed out.
He noted that while it is not a perfect agreement, “like most trade agreements, it was a carefully negotiated compromise, which sought to meet the best interests of the parties. The fact is that we have an agreement for which provisional applications have commenced. In this diverse economic climate, we need to look at where we can find opportunities for expanding our production and export base.”
The Government, Minister Baugh said, stands ready to assist the productive sector, citing among such initiatives, the strengthening of the agriculture and manufacturing sectors, and the organisation of the services sector through the promotion of business, financial and professional services.
The initiatives also extend to the creation of an EPA Technical Working Group and the establishment of a Trade Agreements Implementation Coordination Unit within the Foreign Ministry.
“We are also looking at the development of cultural products in goods and services. There are also external measures such as increasing our external trade promotion capacity that we are now addressing. We must focus on building a mix of exports for the EU and other markets, which includes goods, services and cultural products,” the Foreign Trade Minister said.
In attendance at the one-day seminar were representatives of the local private sector, the delegation of the European Union, the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), civil society, Government officials and members of the public.
The European Commission signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) on December 16, 2007 with Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, the Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago, known as the CARIFORUM countries.