JIS News

The Office of the Prime Minister played an integral role in international relations in 2005, forging closer ties between Jamaica and its neighbours and trading partners through a number of agreements as well as major summits and meetings across the globe.
JAMAICA/CHINA AGREEMENTS Ties between Jamaica and China increased during 2005 with the signing of four bi-lateral Agreements between both Governments in a move designed to strengthen the bonds of friendship between the two countries. The Office of the Prime Minister played an integral role in this bonding, with the Agreements signed on behalf of Jamaica by Dr. Paul Robertson, Minister of Development. The signing ceremony took place in June at the Great Hall of the People in Beijing, China where the Prime Minister P.J. Patterson was on an official visit. The signing ceremony took place immediately after bi-lateral talks were held between Prime Minister Patterson and Premier Wen Jiabao of the People’s Republic of China. Both leaders explored a number of areas, such as tourism, science and technology, including telemedicine and other development project ideas for investment and joint ventures in the Caribbean.
The Agreements cover the areas of bauxite, education, and technical co-operation. A Co-operation Agreement between the Jamaica Bauxite Institute, Jamaica Bauxite Mining Limited and China Minmetals Corporation will involve Minmetals undertaking a detailed study to participate in establishing a bauxite mining and alumina refinery facility in Jamaica with a projected 1.4 million tonnes per annum of alumina capacity. Minmetals has already conducted preliminary due diligence and site visits in the country under this Agreement. Additionally, the Chinese government gave the Jamaican government 10 million Renminbi Yuan or approximately US$1.25 million in grant aid to be used for the implementation of economic and technical projects under an Economic and Technical Co-operation Agreement. A portion of this grant money will finance a feasibility study under the Agreement on Economic and Technical Cooperation. Addressing a Jamaica China business seminar in Shangai during his visit on June 27, Mr. Patterson said that while it might appear that because Jamaica had a population of only 2.7 million people, which was miniscule, compared to China’s, “you would not achieve economies of scale in your operations.
However, when you invest in Jamaica, you are investing in a single economic space under the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME)”. The Prime Minister described Jamaica as the gateway to the Caribbean with a market penetration of over 14 million consumers. “We are also the gateway to the North and South American markets because of our geographic location. In short, when you come to Jamaica, you are in the major markets of the western world,” he pointed out.
Delivering the main address at the opening of the China-Caribbean Trade Forum at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston in February, Prime Minister Patterson welcomed the opportunity afforded by the Caribbean Economic Co-operation Forum and Trade Fair.
He said the time had come for both China and the Caribbean to explore and exploit new avenues for economic trade and co-operation, and expressed confidence that the forum would facilitate the type of joint venture arrangements and other mutually beneficial partnerships that would increase the volume of trade between the countries involved.
On the granting of approval destination status to Jamaica and a number of other Caribbean countries including China, Mr. Patterson said this would provide an exciting opportunity for the tourism sector to offer the region as a complete destination package to the large and growing Chinese market.
In September, Prime Minister Patterson disclosed that Jamaica and Chile had signed two Memoranda of Understanding (MoUs) on Air Transport and Agricultural Products, as both countries sought to boost trade and travel ties. The documents were signed with that country’s President, Ricardo Lagos, during his visit to Chile.
The MoUs would also enable the establishment of export protocols under which agricultural trade can take place directly between the two countries. The agreement on Air Transport is geared towards a full air service between Jamaica and Chile.
“We are seeking to secure, as far as possible, what is considered an open skies agreement,” Mr. Patterson noted. The agreement will facilitate passenger traffic, especially for tourists from Latin America, and increase the movement of cargo from countries, such as Chile, which supplies a significant volume of agricultural products, fish (especially salmon) and wines for Jamaica’s tourist industry. The open skies agreement is expected to further allow cargo planes to avoid having to overfly Jamaica with goods to the United States and then be brought back to Jamaica at higher costs. G77 AND CHINA
In September, during his contribution to the high level Plenary of the United Nations 60th General Assembly, on behalf of the Group of 77 and China, in his capacity as Chair of the grouping, Mr. Patterson called on world leaders to send a message of hope to the millions of people around the world that are still living in poverty.
He said that five years after adopting a Declaration for the shaping of the international society in the new Millennium, the record showed that the results have fallen short of expectations. He said that instead, the world had become more insecure and that in the face of instability and conflict, there was too much hardship and suffering with many persons in danger of being left behind in the march towards achieving the millennium development goals.
Mr. Patterson suggested three ways in which the situations could be corrected. These, he said, were the strengthening of the global partnership, and the elimination of inequalities in the global systems, through positive adjustments in global economic policies. The third activity recommended by the Prime Minister was the reform of global economic governance, which he said should not be confined to the UN but should be undertaken in all institutions within the system, particularly those involved in economic policy making. He also urged developed countries to do more to assist developing countries achieve the UN Millennium Development Goals by 2015. “While resources from developing countries flow to developed countries without impediments, the initiatives and programmes of developed countries which would transfer resources or provide access to developing countries have either been negligible, stymied in negotiations, or surrounded with strict policy conditionalities,” Mr. Patterson said.
Despite this, he added that developing countries had been making significant efforts and have increased their domestic resources. He noted, however, that a large portion of these resources has not been available for developmental investments, as governments have been forced to use them for debt servicing, particularly to multilateral development banks, and as international reserves.
Mr. Patterson said the G77 and China was encouraged by recent commitments of substantial increases in Official Direct Financing and by the establishment of a firm timetable by the European Union for its members to reach the 0.7 per cent target of GDP. He urged other developed countries to do likewise.
While delivering the keynote address at the opening of the South Africa, African Union and Caribbean Diaspora Conference at the Jamaica Conference Centre in Kingston in March, the Prime Minister said there was need for international action to remove the remaining obstacles to the elimination of poverty and diseases, adding that he was firmly of the view that there was a compelling need to reform, rebuild and improve the work of the United Nations in such areas as development co-operation, humanitarian affairs and disarmament.
“There remains an urgent need to alter the design and function of the Security Council to fulfill its mandate in the realities of the world today. The case for the African continent to have a permanent voice in the deliberations of the Security Council is compelling and irrefutable and Jamaica and other Caribbean countries will support that,” the Prime Minister stated.
He pointed to the threat of the HIV/AIDS pandemic and described it as a “brake” on the economic growth and development of the African continent. He noted that the social and economic consequences of the disease were already widely felt in education, industry, agriculture, transport and human resources and that as such, poverty reduction was an overriding priority for the governments of Africa.
The Prime Minister called for an end to aid conditionalities and the use of unilateral coercive measures against developing countries. Mr. Patterson said the practice of applying the weight of economic power to pressure developing countries for political reasons was wrong, as it caused severe hardships and jeopardized development efforts. He said developing countries must be given the opportunity to act effectively, adding that the timing and quality of resource flows were also important.
Turning to the matter of international trade, Mr. Patterson said this must become the engine of growth and that the policies, rules and modalities must have a developmental focus. He questioned the failure to fulfill the Doha Mandate for a Development Round, adding that firm instructions for special and differential treatment must be given to Trade Ministers ahead of the Ministerial meeting in Hong Kong. The Prime Minister emphasised that Jamaica had a lead role to play as Chair of the G77 and China, in ensuring that the interests of the developing world were considered.
PM HOLDS TALKS WITH BRITISH PRIME MINISTER
In June, Mr. Patterson held bilateral talks with British Prime Minister, Tony Blair at his Downing Street offices in London. The discussion focused on a wide range of issues, which included a request for the UK to render additional support in the fight against crime and drug trafficking.
Mr. Patterson noted that Jamaica enjoyed good bilateral relations with Britain and that these relations had been deepened over the years, as the two countries collaborated on matters of mutual security interest. He said Jamaica and Britain were working together in fighting narco-trafficking and the importation of illegal firearms. This, Mr. Patterson said, had worked significantly well as evidenced by the fact that there had been a reduction in the transshipment of cocaine through Jamaica. He indicated that a number of legislative changes would be implemented to intensify local crime fighting capabilities and that additional technical assistance was necessary in the fight against corruption, to include the elimination of extortion, improving forensic capabilities and training of police officers.
Also in June, Prime Minister Patterson met in New York with Dr. Ernesto Zedillo, former President of Mexico and Special Envoy of UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan. The meeting was requested by the UN to get Mr. Patterson’s perspective on the reform, in his capacity as Chairman of the G-77 and China.
Mr. Patterson stressed the importance of addressing issues involving health and the environment, noting that these matters could significantly impact global security. Regarding the environment, he pointed out that this was crucial to small island developing states, such as those in the Caribbean which could suffer major economic and physical setbacks as a result of climatic changes caused by environmental degradation. He also spoke of the need for changes to the international financial architecture to reflect the political realities of the new Millennium. He observed that there was unequal weight given to developed countries as distinct from developing countries, although many newly industrialized and developing countries provide significant support to these institutions. In November, while speaking at the Fourth Summit of the Americas, which was held under the theme, ‘Creating Jobs to Fight Poverty and Strengthen Democratic Governance’, in Mar del Plata, Argentina, Mr. Patterson stated that the quest for sustainable economic growth that favours job creation, poverty reduction and the promotion of peace and stability in the Americas could only be achieved through a long-term commitment to co-operation and hemispheric partnership.
He said that this hemispheric partnership must be one that facilitated better access to markets, increased capital flows and more favourable terms for the transfer of technology.
He said hemispheric leaders should evaluate the prospects for the Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), given the difficulties that have arisen, adding that the issue of special measures for small economies should remain paramount.
“We need to seriously evaluate the prospects for the FTAA process, which was launched at the very first of our Summits, given the obvious difficulties which have since arisen. In all of this, the issue of special measures for small economies will remain paramount,” Mr. Patterson stated. Prior to the Summit, Mr. Patterson made a one-day visit to Brazil where he held talks with President Lula da Silva on a range of issues, including the global agenda, international trade, and investment opportunities between the two countries. The leaders also discussed proposals emanating from Brazil relating to the acquisition of one or more sugar factories in Jamaica and investment in the sugar cane industry, particularly ethanol production, as well as matters relating to the G-77 and China and the World Trade Organisation Ministerial Meeting in Hong Kong.
At the closing session of the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM) in Valetta, Malta on November 27, Prime Minister Patterson expressed confidence in the continued role of the Commonwealth of Nations as an important vehicle through which its diverse membership of 53 countries comprising 1.8 billion people and spanning all continents of the world, could achieve global prosperity by advancing democracy, good governance, poverty alleviation and development.
The Prime Minister said the Commonwealth family remained of immense value and importance to Jamaica because of its commitment to democracy, partnership and co-operative relations, as well as addressing the challenges of development, human rights and global security.
He said Caribbean countries had benefited from their association in the Commonwealth, particularly as it relates to assistance with integration into the global economy, in such areas as trade capacity building.
The Prime Minister said the outcome and consensus reached at the Malta CHOGM, demonstrated the continued relevance and vitality of the Commonwealth family to collectively address and overcome the current development challenges and create new avenues for advancing the global partnership for development.
In December, Jamaica became one of the 12 member countries of CARICOM to ratify the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, paving the way for the adoption of the Treaty Establishing the Caribbean Community and the creation of the Caribbean Single Market in January 2006.
Speaking in relation to the Regional Development Fund, Prime Minister Patterson said the formula that should be used to determine support for the Fund by member States ought to reflect patterns of trade and current economic realities. He pointed to the report of the Sub-committee on Governance that was submitted at the Inter-sessional Meeting in Suriname and its recommendations regarding funding of the organs of the Caribbean Community. He said funding of the regional integration process should be examined in its entirety with the regional development fund as a cornerstone.
In recognition of his work, Prime Minister Patterson was presented with the Charles Diggs award for International Service, named for the late African-American congressman, at the Congressional Black Caucus’ annual awards banquet held on September 24 in Washington.
Accepting the award, Mr. Patterson noted the strong fraternal bonds between the African-American community and Jamaica, which were personified by the significant contributions made to the struggle for the political and social enfranchisement of black America by Jamaican national hero, Marcus Garvey. Mr. Patterson said that he was humbled and gratified for the recognition of his work within the international community, observing that Garvey’s mandate to “redress the inequities of our history and change irreversibly the cruel imbalance that our people have suffered in the economic arena and social development, at both the global and domestic levels”, had remained largely unfulfilled.
Another highlight of the year was the Prime Minister’s appearance on NBC’s ‘Today Show’ on September 14 while he was in New York to address the United Nations (UN) General Assembly. The live interview was aired locally on cable television.
On September 15, Mr. Patterson again graced foreign television screens on the Travel Channel in a documentary programme billed, ‘Jamaica: The Ultimate Tour’. The documentary was a unique collaboration between the Jamaica Tourist Board (JTB) and journalist, Peter Greenberg of the Travel Channel.