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Johnson Smith raps Hanna over comments on steel tariff

Friday, March 16, 2018

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KINGSTON, Jamaica — Countering arguments presented by Opposition Spokesperson on foreign affairs and foreign trade Lisa Hanna, who has called for immediate action in light of the United States' tariffs on steel and aluminium imports, Portfolio Minister, Senator Kamina Johnson Smith, says the Government “will not adopt 'knee-jerk' reactions to the management of our trade exports”.

Johnson Smith, in a statement today, reminded that “Jamaica does not currently produce and export neither aluminium nor steel and would therefore not be directly impacted by the new regulations.

“We also wish to advise that bauxite and alumina, which are major exports for us and are inputs in the manufacture of aluminium, are not subject to the tariffs imposed. They are in fact both tariff exempt under the CBI, which governs our trade with the USA.”

In response to Hanna's concern that the tariffs could have serious direct and indirect economic implications for Jamaica, the minister said the tariffs would affect the aluminium exports of certain countries such as EU Member States, however, there appears to be a limited likelihood of impact on Jamaica's exports of alumina to them.

Read: Trump's tariffs could hurt Jamaica badly, says Hanna

This, she explained, is based on the amount of aluminium exported to the US by our largest destination markets for alumina. It is also noteworthy that, Canada, our second largest market for alumina in 2017, may be exempt from the announced US tariffs.

“These countries are, however, still in the process of evaluating and considering their own responses to the measures announced, including seeking exemptions. In the context of this level of fluidity and the levels of direct risk to us at this time, it is ill-advised for Ms Hanna to be calling for immediate action and operational plans when what is required is a clear and considered understanding of the issues as they unfold, in order to inform strategy where appropriate,” Johnson Smith added.

With respect to the particular investments highlighted by the Opposition spokesperson as cause for alarm, the minister also advised that her understanding was that the investment plans remain intact.

“I must underscore that the Government of Jamaica cannot and will not adopt 'knee-jerk' reactions to the management of our trade exports, which are critical to our economic growth agenda. Our commitment to the people of Jamaica requires a much more responsible approach to such matters. The ministry is paying close attention to the potential impact of the measures on the global trading system and is committed to making informed and strategic decisions in our national interest”.

She said the ministry is in direct consultation on the matter with the Ministry of Transport and Mining, which is closest to the relevant stakeholders, and will continue to monitor developments, while engaging with international partners and the private sector, in order to ensure that the Government can effectively anticipate and counteract any potential market effects.

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