KINGSTON — The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade says it has been making significant progress with plans to integrate the country’s trade policy into the National Development Plan, Vision 2030.
The Ministry’s Under-Secretary in its Foreign Trade Division, Marcia Thomas, told Heads of Missions at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on Tuesday June 28, that the Ministry has been working with the Planning Institute of Jamaica (PIOJ) to conduct a revision of Jamaica’s trade policy.
“It is now critical that trade is seen as an integral part of our development plan, and all the donors are asking that this be done,” she said. She explained that the main objective is to ensure that the policy is mainstreamed or integrated into the national development plan.
Miss Thomas noted that there has not been a review of Jamaica’s trade policy since 2001, and 10 years later was an opportune time to review and revise the trade policy, especially taking into account all that has happened in the last 10 years, including the economic recession.
The project is set to get underway in August or September of this year, with a completion date set for next March.
Miss Thomas stated that despite some minor setbacks, much progress has been made. The proposal was approved by the Cabinet in April. It has also has the support of the Jamaica Trade and Adjustment Team and the personal backing of Prime Minister Bruce Golding.
She said the Government has received approval for funding from the European Union (EU), which is selecting a consultant for the project.
“So this is the major project for the Foreign Trade Division for the fiscal year 2011/2012,” she said.
“Now that the Cabinet has taken the decision that trade is actually a national priority, that should help us in putting it to the donors,” she added.
Programme Manager in the PIOJ’s Plan Development Unit, Richard Lumsden, said the review is in line with the National Development Plan, Vision 2030, which aims to use trade and foreign relations to create an enabling external environment for economic growth. He said one of the key areas of focus is the diversification of the energy supply.
“Energy supply is closely linked to foreign relations, as the relations that we develop with our energy suppliers have direct bearing on, or is directly influenced by our political and economic relations with those suppliers,” he stated.
Another point of focus, he said, was in developing economies of scale and scope, through collaboration with enterprises, in the region, which are directly linked to the development of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).
“There is another strategy which speaks to company sophistication and competitiveness which, again, is related to the Aid for Trade and making the best use of the foreign trade and foreign relations agreements that we develop,” he stated.
The national development plan, known as Vision 2030, Jamaica, aims at making Jamaica the place of choice to live, work, raise families and do business. It highlights Jamaica's priorities for trade and the adoption of updated policies that impact trade. Among the issues to be addressed in the policy are border tariffs, import restrictions and improving competitiveness through energy supply.
In the WTOs most recent trade policy review of Jamaica in January, it was noted that there was continual improvement in the respect of intellectual property, the adoption of open skies agreements and greater transparency in procurement procedures.
By ATHALIAH REYNOLDS, JIS Reporter