Minister of Trade and Industry in Trinidad and Tobago, Hon. Stephen Cadiz, says much of the current issues in the Caribbean, particularly as it relates to an imbalance of trade between his country and Jamaica, can be sorted out through dialogue.
He said his government is willing to continue talks with Jamaica to reach an amicable solution to the problems facing both countries and the region at large.
“At the end of the day, it is all about building real, true Caribbean unity and integration,” he argued.
Mr. Cadiz was speaking with Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, at an official meeting at the Ministry, in New Kingston, on April 27.
The Ministers met to discuss an array of issues pertinent to both countries in the areas of trade, agriculture, energy and manufacturing.
Others present at the meeting included: Minister of Agriculture and Fisheries, Hon. Roger Clarke; State Minister in the Ministry of Science, Technology, Energy and Mining, Hon. Julian Robinson; and Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, as well as members of the delegation from Trinidad.
Mr. Cadiz admitted that trade issues surrounding cement, Jamaican music and even patties, have caused the two countries to be at odds for a number of years, but said this should not be the case.
“One of the main issues is the differential and disparity, and imbalance in the trade between Trinidad and Jamaica. We have been looking at ways and means of how to correct this in a real sense, not just doing good public relations,” he said.
Data shows that from 2005 to 2009 Jamaica gained between US$3 million to US$5 million from exports to the twin republic. In contrast, Trinidad exports to Jamaica ranged from about US$26 million to US$34 million for that period.
Mr. Cadiz said that when he took office in June 2010, “there were wars in the Caribbean and I thought we were back to the Pirates of the Caribbean, because the wars were being fought and I don’t think too many of us realised what was happening and why we had wars in the first place."
“There were all kinds of bad-blood between Trinidad and Tobago and Jamaica. We had the patty wars…then there was the cement wars and even had wars over Ding Dong (singer), because he was banned from performing in Trinidad before even singing a note,” he said.
Mr. Cadiz is adamant that such issues must be sorted out through dialogue and communication between both governments, before they get out of control.
“I am glad we are able to be here to re-establish this relationship, because if we leave it up to the Food and Drugs Division in Trinidad, we will continue with the patty wars; if we leave it up to Customs and Immigration, we are going to continue with the Ding Dong wars; and if we leave it to Trinidad Cement, we will always have a cement war,” he said.
“So, my view on the whole thing is not to have that. Let us have a very good working relationship. We will have our differences, we will disagree, but at least we know what we are disagreeing about,” he added.
Mr. Cadiz further noted that many of the regulations governing the decisions of Trinidad and Tobago’s Food and Drugs Division are archaic, “hence the reason we had these issues."
He said he was therefore working with his country’s Ministry of Health to bring the Division under the control of that Ministry to ensure that “we bring the Food and Drugs Division out of the dark ages to be able to deal with all these situations."
Mr. Cadiz and his team were in Jamaica to participate in Expo Jamaica 2012, which is being held at the National Arena from April 26 to 29.