Hylton unveils new trade policy
JAMAICA yesterday unveiled a new trade policy which promises the full embrace of Jamaicans living abroad as part of the strategy for accumulating investment capital and penetrating markets.
At the same time, the document stresses the need for deepening regional integration, including the speeding up of the Caricom single market and economy, while negotiating the removal of barriers to the entry of third-country markets.
However, it proposes, where possible, to seek time concessions market adjustments, as well as apply existing trade remedies to protect and build sectors, even as it concedes that Jamaica has relatively little time to restructure its economy to respond to reciprocal free trade.
"The new trade policy... recognises the need to prepare for the ending of preferential arrangements and to preserve preferences only as long as is necessary for adjustment to take place while preparing for reciprocal trade by 2005 in the Free Trade Areas of the Americas (FTAA) and the ending of EU (European Union) preferences by 2008," said the policy document.
It was tabled in Parliament by the out-going foreign trade minister, Anthony Hylton, its key author.
Prepared after months of consultation between Hylton, the private sector, non-government organisations and political parties, the new policy was, in fact, a response to the negotiations for the FTAA and the agreement between the EU and the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping to eliminate preferences in their post-Cotonou trade relations and Jamaica's obligations under the World Trade Organisation.
"These trading arrangements now force countries like Jamaica to export significantly more of those goods and services that rely on our competitive advantage," Hylton told Parliament.
It is in this context that the policy highlights the need to focus on Jamaicans abroad "to achieve the objective of increasing the flow of net positive returns from overseas assets".
Among the things it proposes to achieve are:
* the implementation of a Charter for Returning
* operating an information centre and contact
point for Jamaican overseas organisations and
* encouraging and mobilising Jamaicans
abroad to assist in national development;
* promoting policies to support the interests of
Jamaican communities abroad through politi
cal and economic activities; and
* providing trade-related assistance to
Jamaicans overseas to increase capital flows
It recognises, however, that Jamaica, in the new environment, has to widen its export base, focusing on providing incentives for foreign investment and foreign technical and financial assistance which help to facilitate domestic capital formation.
Additionally, the island has to focus on the implications of WTO negotiations on a General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), Trade Related Intellectual Property Rights (TRIPs) and Trade Related Investment Measures (TRIMs).
As part of the same process, Jamaica will seek to reduce the share of its imports relative to outputs.
Hylton, in his parliamentary statement, warned that Jamaica had little time to transform its trading relations and had to act as a matter or urgency.
He pointed out, for instance, that the EU's 'Everything But Arms' initiative, effectively opened its market to all exports from the world's least developed countries, except for arms. Effectively, this undermines trade preferences enjoyed by ACP countries, including Jamaica, in that market.
Said Hylton: "The problem is most evident... with bananas and sugar. In both cases, Jamaica and most other countries in the ACP rely heavily on price supports through preferences to justify selling these commodities under current production technologies, social arrangements and cost-price ratios.
"A compromise period was reached for the ending of preferences for bananas in 2006 and for sugar in 2009. So we have to utilise our abundant resources, especially our creativity, to become price competitive on the open market within the compromise period."