KINGSTON: Jamaica’s Industry Investment and Commerce Minister, Anthony Hylton, has announced that Jamaica has narrowed its trade deficit by 0.3 per cent at the start of the year to US$401 million.
The figure represents a US$1.2 million improvement over the corresponding period in January 2012.
The nation’s trade deficit with its Caribbean Community (CARICOM) partners fell by US$11.2 million or 18 per cent to US$51 million, down from US$62.2 million over the comparative period last year.
Speaking at the launch of the Jamaica Exporters Association’s (JEA) National Export Month last week in New Kingston, Hylton praised the nation’s exporters, “who continue to take ‘Brand Jamaica’ to the world”.
Although exports have increased, he said more work needs to be done to reduce the trade deficit.
“We are still not out of the woods, still needing to make a quantum leap in the level of our exports if we are to get on track and further narrow our trade deficit,” said Hylton.
Hylton said an export-led growth strategy focused on diversification is the only option for Jamaica and will result in dynamic and sustainable development of the economy.
“In diversifying our exports, we must begin to seriously consider the untapped potential of our services sectors, which contribute approximately 70 per cent of gross domestic product (GDP),” he said.
Hylton said the recently finalized Services Strategy and Expansion Plan, developed by the Jamaica Coalition of Service Industries (JCSI), is an example of the government’s determination to explore opportunities and take advantage of new growth areas for exports.
These include Information Communication Technology (ICT), creative industries, professional services, logistics, medical and health and wellness tourism and offshore education.
Eight companies were inducted into the JEA’s US Million Dollar Club, having achieved sales of $1 million or more.
JEA president, Andrew Collins, said that exports are fundamental to reshaping the Jamaican economy and “everyone must be involved if we are to seriously expand the sector and earn our way to a prosperous future”.
Collins said the annual celebration of exporters’ month provides the opportunity to recognize and reward the achievements of outstanding exporters and to cultivate and motivate potential and existing exporters to become more active in the international market place.
“This month also allows us to focus attention on the contribution of the export sector to the economy and develop plans for a future of more export jobs and earnings,” he said.
Exporters Month is being observed with the theme “Exporting is Everybody’s Business” and will include seminars throughout the country, in addition to the annual Export Awards Banquet, which was held on Tuesday.