Jamaican minister sees challenges in harmonization

KINGSTON, Jamaica: Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Karl Samuda, has suggested that harmonization of economies within the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will be challenging, since some Jamaican products face trade blockades by its regional neighbours.

Samuda made reference to the now resolved dispute with Trinidad and Tobago in which a shipment of Jamaican beef patties was denied access by authorities in the twin-island republic. He said that situation, which was rectified after consultation and discussion at the highest level, was very frustrating.

“The level of frustration that has been relayed to me and my officers in respect of this attempt to export to Trinidad, cannot be described and serves as a major impediment to the concept of free trade within CARICOM,” Samuda said.

He said that Jamaican manufacturers were also experiencing difficulties with exporting goods to other territories, such as Belize and Barbados.

“We wish to adhere to all the provisions of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, but there is a limit beyond which we are not prepared to go. We are not prepared to see the frustration and discouragement of our manufacturing sector to the point where people will go out of business in the productive sector,” Samuda said.

Citing the nation’s trade deficit within the region, the minister described the trade blockade as unfair.

He indicated that during 2008, regionally, Jamaica imported J$260 million (US$2.9 million) worth of goods, against the J$64 million (US$723,163) value of exports.

“Now you will understand why we are so vigilant and determined to ensure that nobody takes advantage of those of us who are prepared to work hard and produce good products that can be sold within our community,” Samuda said.

Prime Minister Bruce Golding has asked Secretary-General of CARICOM, Edwin Carrington, to add the issue of the trade blockade to the agenda for the CARICOM Heads of Government meeting, scheduled for July. (JIS)

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