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Jamaica tops in services, says Caricom chief

BY LUKE DOUGLAS Observer senior reporter douglasl@jamaicaoberver.com

Sunday, July 01, 2012    

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CARIBBEAN Community (CARICOM) secretary general, Ambassador Irwin LaRocque has suggested that Jamaica is doing better in the trade in services across the region than most other countries.

While acknowledging that there is a massive gap in the trade of goods between Jamaica and the rest of the region that fall under the umbrella group, LaRocque said all the factors need to be considered.

"The trade imbalance being experienced by Jamaica reflects trade in respect of goods only. However, that is only part of the picture," LaRocque said at a breakfast meeting in Kingston, Friday.

The meeting, which involved leading members of the private sector, was staged by Strategic Corporate Interventions at the Jamaica Pegasus Hotel.

"To consider the true picture of the balance of trade you must take into account trade in services in which it has been suggested that Jamaica has a comparative advantage, such as in cultural industries and professional services," the Caricom secretary general said.

However, LaRocque did not support the assertion of Jamaica's comparative advantage in services with figures, as he said data in trade in services is not readily available.

The trade imbalance in the region, which sees Trinidad and Tobago's exports to Jamaica being 10 times the value of Jamaica's exports to Trinidad and Tobago has been a public discussion point for several months.

Former industry and commerce minister Karl Samuda is among those who called for a review of Caricom trade systems, but former Prime Minister PJ Patterson and Attorney General AJ Nicholson have defended Jamaica's relationship with Caricom.

Meanwhile, with some commentators questioning the relevance and usefulness of the regional body to Jamaica, the Caricom secretary general has defended the achievements of the grouping.

LaRocque, who assumed his leadership position at the Caricom secretariat in August last year, listed some of the achievements of the regional body, including;

o The establishment of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA)

o The Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC), which manages the main secondary school examinations in the region

o The Pan Caribbean Partnership Against HIV and Aids (PANCAP), which has enabled a 50 per cent reduction in the cost of anti-retroviral drugs to combat the deadly disease

o Negotiating as a group on the international stage, which has provided access to markets to the benefit of producers, manufacturers and service industries

o Acting collectively has afforded the region a greater presence in the international community to advance its concerns.

LaRocque also noted that Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller, in a statement last Wednesday, "left no doubt that her government was in full support of the regional movement and would do all that it could to strengthen Caricom."

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