Executive director of the Jamaica Manufacturers and Exporters Association Simara Howell has revealed that the lobby group will be developing its relationships with other local and regional organisations to better serve and boost the exports of its member companies.
“We realise that we have avenues that we haven't tapped into, hence relationships, and using what we have in our diplomatic representatives,” she told reporters during Jamaica Observer's Business Forum.
At the local level, Howell said that the JMEA has been taking advantage of Jamaica Promotions Corporation's (Jampro) Economic Diplomacy Programme (EDP) to expand the organisation's reach as well as court foreign interests.
A joint programme between Jampro and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, the EDP commenced in June last year with signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two parties.
During the signing ceremony, portfolio minister for foreign trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith noted that economic diplomacy is at the core of Jamaica's foreign policy and “plays a critical role in advancing the Government's economic growth agenda through building strategic relationships and leveraging our overseas presence to promote Jamaica's trade and investment interests”.
Since then, Howell told Caribbean Business Report, JMEA has reached out to several embassies and overseas missions.
“In May, during Exporters Month, we were able to engage with our embassy in Japan where we had a 'Doing Business' series on the Asia-Pacific market. We focused on Japan, Australia, and New Zealand,” she shared.
“We also had another session as it relates to doing business in Canada. We've also been in discussions with our honorary consuls. Through the connection in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs we have been engaging with our honorary consul in Malaysia,” the JMEA executive director continued.
While noting that there are a lot of markets that Jamaica has not tapped into, Howell pointed out that embassies, high commissions and consulates will have a critical role to play “as it relates to being our eyes and ears on the ground” in the respectives countries.
In the meantime, she said the JMEA secretariat will continue to collaborate with Jampro on improving the country's trade presence in markets in which member companies already have a foothold, such as the UK and EU.
In support of Howell's comments, JMEA Vice-President — Trade and Logistics Stephen Dawkins added that Jampro has reached out to member companies to provide assistance. He said the local export marketing and trade promotions entity has, through foreign missions, helped to connect companies with “quality distributors” and enhance their presence where they are not as strong.
In fact, Dawkins praised Jampro for helping Wisynco — for which he is the export manager — to make inroads into Cuba.
“...From a personal standpoint, where Wisynco is concerned, we have done many trade missions with Jampro into Cuba… for about three to four years straight, I visited. It is only now that we have got some breakthrough,” he informed Caribbean Business Report.
“Last month we shipped 10 containers to Cuba; this month we're shipping five containers,” he added.
In terms of regional partnerships, Howell said that the JMEA has collaborated with the Caribbean Manufacturers Association to resolve trade issues without government intervention. The organisation, she stated, is working assiduously to streamline trade policies to facilitate smoother movement of goods and services in the region.
“Oftentimes we find that trade policy is developed in a vacuum and we find that sometimes you do have issues that you face across borders, private sector to private sector. Sometimes we believe the processes going through the Government may take a little while, so if we have an association like the CMA, there are certain issues that we can resolve amongst ourselves. So what we're trying to do is just to coordinate on a regional private sector level,” the executive director outlined.
In addition, she said the CMA has helped to resolve issues relating to Caricom's Council of Trade and Economic Development and the Common External Tariff.
When quizzed about Caribbean Export Development Agency's (CEDA) offer to assist regional organisations and businesses, Howell said the JMEA is already working with the organisation. So far, both organisations have partnered in training local companies to engage in exporting.
Notwithstanding, she said JMEA “plans to deepen its relationship with CEDA”.