JIS News

Agriculture Minister, Roger Clarke has cited Jamaica’s influence and the high regard with which the country’s agricultural produce is held internationally among the reasons that have enabled local products to be sold at high costs to overseas markets.
“Our products are well known and highly regarded and more often than not command the highest prices,” Minister Clarke said. He was making his contribution to the 2005/06 sectoral debate in the House of Representatives on Tuesday (June 7).
“We have also been fortunate to have negotiated trading agreements that have placed us at an advantage over many of our competitors – arrangements without which our industries could not have survived,” he further noted.
He explained, however, that with the advent of free trade, the situation was changing and several of those “hard won agreements” including the non-reciprocal preferential trade arrangements Jamaica has enjoyed with its traditional trading partners, were now at stake.
The Minister told members of the House that developments at the World Trade Organisation (WTO), the Free Trade Area of the Americas, African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) states/European Union negotiations, and the establishment of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, together, continued to have significant implications for the agricultural sector.
For that reason, Mr. Clarke asserted, the implications “must be carefully factored into the development strategy for the agricultural sector”.
He argued that the market access issues of the WTO/Doha round of trade negotiations on agriculture were of particular importance to developing countries such as Jamaica.
“This is where provision will be made for the further reduction of tariffs in both our domestic and export markets. The developed countries will be able to designate sensitive products, as has been recommended by the European Union (EU), Japan and Switzerland. It is expected that under this list of products, the EU could permit higher tariffs on bananas and sugar, for example, and thereby maintain some preference for ACP producers. This is perhaps the only way that trade preferences will be preserved for a limited period,” he noted.
Minister Clarke explained that developing countries like Jamaica were given a provision for designating an appropriate number of products as “special products”, to be subject to more flexible treatment on the grounds of food security, livelihood security and rural development needs. Further specification and treatment of these products are now being negotiated, as are the details of a special safeguard measure.

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