Seaga laments imbalance of trade Cheaper to import than

Observer staff reporter

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

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MONTEGO BAY — President of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association (JMEA), Metry Seaga believes that although the country is on the right path to increasing export growth, Government needs to address the glaring disparity which sees imports outweighing exports.

“Over the years, our leaders have focused on improving the debt-to-GDP ratio, but still fail to put a forward-thinking export development plan at the forefront, where it belongs. Our success and competitiveness as a productive sector and outcome of our international exhibition is highly dependent on our trading ecosystem.

“Ladies and gentlemen, I know that there is much work being done by the Trade Facilitation Task Force, but the fact remains that for too long it is much cheaper and easier to import than to export and we have had little success with the operationalisation of the National Export Strategy II,” Seaga argued.

He bemoaned that Jamaica has failed to insist on the reciprocation of trade that it extends “to the rest of the world from our regional and other counterparts”.

“As a private sector we also must be aggressive and break down those barriers; knock on the doors and don't be afraid to explore the endless opportunities,” the JMEA president mooted.

Speaking at the launch of the JMEA's second staging of the Jamaica International Exhibition (JIE) at the Hilton Rose Hall Resort and Spa yesterday, Seaga expressed that Jamaica should capitalise on exporting opportunities opened up regionally and globally.

He specifically pointed to exporting possibilities in the United Kingdom and Haiti. The Caribbean nation imported some US$2-billion of goods, “however, Jamaica's export only account for 0.7 per cent”.

“At the 47th meeting of the Council of Trade and Economic Development (COTED) held in November last year, Haiti committed to implementing the necessary procedures which would allow them to become a member of the Caribbean Community (Caricom) by October of this year, leading to duty-free trade with Jamaica,” Seaga pointed out.

He also noted that the UK's import market grew by one per cent in 2017, which amounted to US$4.9 billion.

“If we could tap into just a small portion of that one per cent it could lead to a meteoric rise in our export value,” he said.

Locally, he noted that the tourism sector is demanding over $248 million in products from local farmers and the Tourism Agri-linkages Exchange (ALEX) programme has found an additional $39-million demand, “while the same sector is demanding approximately $1.9 billion in manufactured products”.

Meanwhile, Seaga said the JIE, which will run from May 30 to June 1 at the Mantego Bay Convention Centre, will provide a platform in the provision of “promotional exposure and local and international business-to-business opportunities”.

“As soldiers, we manufacturers, primary producers, service providers and other exporters must march on, because it's the private sector that trades, not the Government. But it is our role to ensure that their focus is directed at facilitating private sector- led growth,” he argued.

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