Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, says he will be addressing concerns regarding the country’s trade deficit with the rest of CARICOM, during his upcoming Sectoral presentation in the House of Representatives.
Speaking at the launch of the Jamaica Exporters’ Association's (JEA) National Exporters’ Month on June 4th at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston, Minister Hylton, said he continues to be concerned about the absence of a level playing field in CARICOM and other trading environments.
“Let me note that I have watched with deep interest and concern the various statements and increasing drum beats calling for Jamaica’s withdrawal from CARICOM. I will not speak to this issue at this time, but more will be said on this matter during the course of the Sectoral debate,” he said.
Mr. Hylton informed that following the staging of the JEA Expo 2012 in late April, he led a team to Trinidad and has been advancing discussions with the country on trade issues. “Early indications are that there is a basis for continued dialogue on this and other matters with our CARICOM partners,” he said.
He noted that one issue that has to be dealt with is the high cost of energy, which he said, continues to undermine the competitiveness of the export sector in the region, and has consequences for the performance of the economy in terms of Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and job growth.
“Without a doubt, the energy issue needs quick resolution. Other CARICOM countries (Guyana, Suriname) are discovering oil. There has to be a policy that addresses regional access to energy resources as well as regional access to markets,” the Industry Ministry said.
Mr. Hylton said the government, through the Jamaica’s National Export Strategy (NES), is focussed on improving the competitiveness of Jamaican firms and increasing the penetration of domestically produced goods and services in global markets.
“The objective is to support companies that are export-ready by providing services that build their competitiveness and by employing a project-based approach to export development, export clustering and networking,” the Industry Minister said.
The strategy aims to achieve greater diversification of the export sector by: attaining higher value addition in all priority sectors; increasing the current value of non-traditional exports of goods by 2013 through increased volumes and higher value addition; increasing the contribution of services exports as a percentage of overall exports with particular emphasis on developing professional services and creative industries export sectors; and enhancing penetration in existing markets and accessing new and emerging markets.
Minister Hylton also stressed the government’s commitment to providing the right environment for the export sector through the establishment, improvement and maintenance of supportive frameworks and partnerships with major stakeholders.
He said critical issues, which directly impact the Jamaican business environment, are being addressed with an increased sense of urgency, in order to strengthen competitiveness and further buttress the competitive advantages that the country offers.
For his part, JEA President, Vitus Evans, called on the government and exporters to commit to the implementation of the various initiatives under the NES.
“Jamaica must harness its creativity to leverage our existing resources to eliminate bureaucracies, drive production and export. We have no other choice,” Mr. Evans said.
He stated that Jamaica must see CARICOM as a viable market as the country seeks to reduce the trade imbalance with countries in the region. “We must remember that the CARICOM market has a population of 16 million (and) we also have over 22 million tourists visiting annually,” he said.
“As we look to increase our export earnings…we need to look to new and emerging markets. We must also seek to widen our export base and diversify our export offerings,” Mr. Evans added.
He said exports of non traditional goods for 2011 was valued at US$672.3 million, increasing by US$77 million over 2010.
National Exporters’ Month will be observed from June 1-30, under the theme: ‘Celebrating Excellence in Exports’.
By Latonya Linton, JIS Reporter