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Jamaican delegation to visit T&T
It has not yet been made public, but word on the ground is that a Jamaican delegation will visit T&T in the coming weeks to continue talks aimed at resolving the strained relationship between the Caricom superpowers.
Trinidad’s Prime Minister Dr Keith Rowley and a delegation are on a five-day official visit to Kingston for bilateral talks aimed at the easing the strained relationship between the two countries.
Addressing three of Jamaica’s manufacturing bodies at a luncheon at the Terra Nova Hotel, Dr Rowley himself alluded to a return visit saying he looked forward to receiving the Jamaican delegation and T&T was opening doors for collaboration between the two countries.
The luncheon was the first time the PM came face to face with the man said to have made the call to boycott T&T goods in early 2016—William Mahfood.
The Prime Minister’s comments seemed to be directed to past statements and positions expressed by Mahfood, who is also the director of one of Jamaica’s largest manufacturing and distributing company Wysinco Group. Take for instance the disparity in the price fuel is sold to Jamaica and other Caricom countries as opposed to that enjoyed by those out of Caricom.
Mr Mahfood has long contended that T&T uses the Caricom’s Common External Tariff (CET) subjected to fuel products outside of Caricom to price its own fuel products at a “predatory level.” Dr Rowley spoke to this making it clear energy prices were not set by individual countries but by industry governing bodies.
“What is not widely known, even inside of T&T, is that we are an oil importer and much of oil we handle is imported, brought from outside on terms and conditions that can change by the hour. We refine that and simply take a margin on refinery. So I’m not here today trying to answer your question on what CET may or may not mean,” said Rowley.
And on the point that T&T manufacturers enjoy competitive advantage as lower energy costs make it cheaper to produce the same product at the same quality in T&T compared to Jamaica, Rowley begged to differ.
He said in the same way, there is also competitive advantage enjoyed by Jamaicans based on cheaper labour. According to Dr Rowley, the time has come for systems to be effected to move skilled and semi skilled labour to the points of need.
Jamaican businessmen have for years contended that the trade imbalance between the countries could be levelled off, at least as far as the non-engery sector, if it wasn’t so difficult to get their products on T&T shelves.
Rowley said the blockages occur simply because there is a disparity between the quality standards and regulation on their domestic markets as compared to those of T&T. Rowley called for the harmonisation of quality regulations throughout Caricom.
“There should be some deadlines and if there are deadline their functionaries will have to work on those deadlines and more importantly political leaders must not be able to play games with decision making at the level of heads at level of region.”
Speaking after the luncheon, the various business heads were pleased with the commitments to talk and dispassionately flesh out issues. Metry Seaga President of the Jamaica Manufactures Association said now was not the time to sit and wait. He says much work needed to be done in Jamaica.