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Private sector says Trinidad talks must be followed by action

Monday, December 9, 2013

Chairman of Jamaica’s Joint Private Sector Working Group on Caricom, Howard Mitchell, says while local business interests are in no way fixing for a trade war with T&T, they are not content to hear talk and no action. Mitchell, along with representatives of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica and the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, voiced their concerns when they appeared before a meeting of the Internal and External Affairs of the country’s Parliament after discussions with Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran.


“Representatives of the private sector met with the honourable minister from Trinidad and had the opportunity to express some of the details and the impediments to good relationship and I think it was well received. The summary of our position is that we welcome Caricom. We recognise that, in the globalised world we live in now, Caricom and integrated relationships are essential for small states to survive. However, Caricom is a relationship and like every other relationship if you don’t work at it, it will fail,” Mitchell said.


“The perspective we have, historically and currently, is we have not paid enough attention to the relationship. The relationship is characterised by ignorance or our joint culture, joint problems and our equal opportunities so that we act as individuals but speak as partners and that creates a disjunction,” he added.


The relationship between Jamaica and T&T had become further strained following an incident last month in which 13 Jamaicans were refused entry to T&T and deported. Prior to this, manufacturers had raised concerns about the trade imbalance between the two countries The latest issue triggered calls in Jamaica for a boycott of T&T-produced goods and a ban on imports.


“The principal issue in the broad sense is economic disequilibrium. Somewhere in between there is a solution because the broad statement that Jamaica is un-competitive is not true, we have labour,” Mitchell said, adding that the island’s privatee sector was not prepared to brush any issue aside.


“We don’t want anyone to think that the private sector views this as a relatively simple procedure to be accomplished or that we are prepared to accommodate the types of tensions that keep occurring with increasing frequency because the relationship is in bad shape,” he said.


“We have a constituency out there of manufacturers and traders and they are extremely upset. There is an element of nationalism here that cannot be ignored. There is also a level of cultural and physical difference and separation amongst the members of the CSME despite similar attitudes and cultures”.


“We made the point to the minister (Dookeran) that there is a link between the supermarkets and Caricom. Trinidad will suffer greatly if there is a boycott of goods and so will Jamaica. We don’t want to go down that road but at the same time the private sector is not prepared to have this matter be referred for discussion at the next Coted (The Council for Trade and Economic Development) and put on the agenda. It is time for action that must manifest itself to our constituency,” he said.


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