Bridging the TT/Jamaica gap

This is according to Jamaica Prime Minister Andrew Holness, who has accepted Prime Minister Dr Keith’s Rowley’s invitation to visit TT in the near future. It is expected that the framework agreement - currently under consideration - will be signed during Holness’ visit.

“As leaders we agreed to work towards a better and more stable environment for businesses to thrive, to increase investment flow between our countries and to develop mechanisms to facilitate closer trade cooperation and the resolution of trade issues,” Holness said.

Speaking at the end of Rowley’s five-day official visit to Jamaica on July 21 at the Office of the Prime Minister, Kingston, Jamaica, Holness said that both countries discussed ways, such as, the restoration of trade desks in their ministries of trade and commerce to navigate around structural impediments.

“Things like that will help to ensure the ease of trade and not just trade in goods, but hassle free travel across the region,” he said.

Talks also included the movement of all factors of productions - free movement of goods, finance, capital and labour.

Free movement does not mean free for all movement but structured movement governed by rules, he said, and in this regard the Jamaican Government has undertaken to explain to the Jamaican public the rules that apply given complaints about being hassled at TT ports of entry.

On the outcome of his talks with business leaders, Rowley said, there were some misunderstandings but nothing that could not be cleared up by frank and clear discussions.

“They want assurance that there were no non-tariff barriers to trade and that genuine efforts were made to allow public servants - the administrators of the treaties - to understand what we have signed on to, and to execute in a way that is in the letter and spirit of the treaties and regulations,” he said.

Meanwhile, President of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica Dr William Mahfood, President of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) Metry Seaga and President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) Warren McDonald expressed a willingness to work with the respective governments to remove blockages to trade and to work in the TT market.

They spoke with the media on July 19 at the Terra Nova All-Suite Hotel in New Kingston, Jamaica, following a meeting of Jamaica’s leaders in business and commerce with Rowley and the TT delegation.

McDonald said the JCC was pleased that Rowley “gave the undertaking to work with Jamaica to try and work out most of the challenges and concerns.” He said, “We were optimistic in areas such as standards for the region, rules of origin, subsidies, things of that nature, which were matters of concern, and we can now devote our energies to solving them.” Meanwhile Seaga said the issues Jamaican manufacturers faced on the TT market were mainly administrative. He agreed with Rowley that CARICOM countries do not accept each other’s standards and that needs to be rectified.

The issue of trade imbalance was still to be discussed in terms of closing the gap in non-oil trade imbalance, he said. “That is some work we have to do here in Jamaica and we intend to.” Seaga said that TT has oil and there was always going to be a trade imbalance because of that.

Rowley’s visit to Jamaica was undertaken at a time when relations on the ground were strained due to reports of Jamaican nationals being turned away from the Piarco International Airport and treated without dignity, as well as a reported call for a boycott of TT products on the Jamaica market.

Mahfood who was widely reported as calling for a boycott of TT goods said, he never called for a boycott and that the media took his comments out of context. Claiming that he loves TT and has many Trinidadian friends, he said the reality was that the business communities in both countries share common problems.

The Jamaican private sector, he said, has had many years of dialogue with the private sector in TT and in other CARICOM countries, “but we have not embodied the essence and intent of what the CARICOM Single Market and Economy was meant to be.” TT and Jamaica as leaders in the region, he said, have to ensure that CARICOM implements the CSME.

Rowley noted that because of the stagnation in the implementation of the CSME, that the TT Government has placed it back on the CARICOM agenda.

Meanwhile, it should be noted that Jamaica has established a commission to assess the benefits of its participation in CARICOM. Former Jamaican prime minister Bruce Golding heads the commission


"Bridging the TT/Jamaica gap"

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