The successful implementation of the Government’s proposed Global Logistics Hub Initiative is expected to provide a more modern, efficient, and dynamic framework for enhanced trade creation and expansion.
This is the view of State Minister for Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Hon. Arnaldo Brown, who noted that positioning Jamaica as the fourth node in the global logistics chain, which the initiative sets out to do, will greatly improve the country’s trade prospects.
“Our economy is very open with diverse trading links across the globe. These links are expected to expand even further when the major project of making Jamaica the premier logistics hub in the Caribbean comes to fruition,” he said.
The State Minister was addressing the opening ceremony for the National Self-assessment of Needs and Priorities exercise under the World Trade Organization (WTO) Trade Facilitation Agreement, held at the Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston, on Monday, May 26.
Citing statistics from 2012, Mr. Brown argued that with the total value of trade in Jamaica standing at US$8.3 billion, imports valued at US$6.6 billion and exports “a measly US$1.7 billion,” the development of the logistics hub could reverse this trade shortfall.
Jamaica’s global Logistics Hub Initiative, which is a core plank in the Government’s economic growth strategy, seeks to drive investment and create sustainable employment over the long term.
It aims to take advantage of the anticipated increase in trade activities as a result of the expansion of the Panama Canal, scheduled for completion by 2015.
Mr. Brown said the Government has been on a drive to enhance trade facilitation, pointing to the country’s input in the historic agreement on trade facilitation that was secured during the 9th World Trade Ministerial Conference (MC9), held in Bali, Indonesia in December last year.
“In Bali, Jamaica also had Ministerial responsibility for co-ordinating the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP), which played a pivotal role in shaping the text of the trade facilitation agreement, particularly section II, dealing with special and differential treatment for developing and least developed countries,” he said.
He pointed out that Jamaica also formulated a National Aid for Trade Strategy in 2011, which includes proposals for interventions on trade facilitation.
“Since then, we have reactivated the National Trade Facilitation Committee which has been working alongside our trade experts in seeking to derive the best outcome for Jamaica in the negotiations for the trade facilitation agreement,” he added.
Jamaica is currently undertaking a self assessment of needs and priorities exercise to identify the major areas in which technical, financial and capacity building assistance will be required for the effective implementation of the agreement.
In the meantime, WTO Lead Facilitator, Helge Lindrup, assured of the organisation’s assistance, as the country embarks on this important needs assessment process over the next week.
He noted that the Trade Facilitation Agreement is not only significant in terms of the anticipated improvements it will bring to world trade, but its special and differential treatment measures.
“The trade facilitation agreement goes beyond the traditional flexibilities for developing and least developed country members and actually links the requirement on these countries to implement the Agreement with their capacity to do so,” he said.
Mr. Lindrup further explained that the special and differential treatment provisions allow each developing country and least-developed country member to determine when they will implement each of the individual provisions, as well as identifying those provisions for which they will need technical assistance and support for capacity building.
“The agreement also recognizes the need for donor members to enhance assistance and support for capacity building. In this regard, the agreement ensures the provision of technical assistance to support developing and the least-developed countries to implement the modernizing reforms set out in trade facilitation,” he said.
He said it was imperative that the country identifies what support it needs as early as possible according to the terms of the agreement, which is the purpose of the needs assessment exercise.
“Our goal is that by the end of the week, you will have a better idea of your current compliance level for each of the approximately 40 trade facilitation measures to be implemented,” Mr. Lindrup added.
By Alecia Smith-Edwards