Taken as a whole, CARICOM economies have both the trading power and the collective potential to stimulate recovery and move regional trade in the right direction - away from protectionism and toward a stronger, more open rules-based system. CARICOM can be a model for global trade done right. For the sake of all our economies, we must break down long-standing barriers to trade and investments as well as newer impediments that obstruct trade and slow economic integration in CARICOM. This has become even more imperative as Jamaica seeks to create an economy based on balanced and sustained growth. This means that Jamaica needs to consume less, and produce and export more. Ensuing that we maintain a rules-based and fair approach to trade is one dimension of helping to make this growth model work. We must cooperate regionally in order to compete globally.
Under the Trade Act (1955), the Trade Commission and by extension the Trade Board Limited (TBL) is involved in regulating Jamaica’s trade regime and developing and coordinating the implementation of trade policy. Currently, TBL is involved in a revitalization effort. The intention of the revitalization of TBL is to improve the effectiveness of trade policy and promotion efforts; improve trade policy coordination; avoid duplication of functions and activities; boost competiveness of local industries; and facilitate exports. The goal is to reorganize the TBL to ensure that it and Jamaica’s approach to trade is ‘more competent and more efficient’. As part of this effort TBL is also involved in eliciting advice from the public on trade policy decisions.
The potential for Jamaica is great, and the TBL is committed to making the most of our trading relationships. Jamaica knows that engagement around the world is vital to its trading future. If we want to create the jobs that are need, we must gain access to overseas markets. TBL will renew its commitment to work with other trade related agencies to reduce red tape, improve transparency, and simplify customs documentation and procedures in order to reduce the costs of doing business and the time needed to make trade happen in Jamaica. These steps will help all businesses, but they will be of particular importance to small and medium-sized enterprises. These enterprises are the backbone of Jamaica’s economy, and they are the incubators for talented individuals and the transformation of good ideas into viable business ventures. TBL will be looking for every opportunity to help these businesses and their workers succeed. As TBL approaches this effort, we recognize that Jamaican workers, farmers, manufacturers, and service providers face different challenges today than they have in the past. Therefore, further engagement with our stakeholders and trading partners gives us the opportunity to identify gaps in our trading regime which will assist in charting the course for the future.
Proper utilization of trade agreements could help create for the Jamaican people the jobs and economic development that are the promise of trade. To fulfill the full promise, Jamaica must look not only at what we can do for ourselves in the region, but also at how we can work together in CARICOM to demonstrate leadership on trade for the entire world.
TBL will have many opportunities before us in the months and years to come. As Jamaica develops economically, so does the potential for TBL to make its mark. And we look forward to continue working with our stakeholders to strengthen TBL and make it ever more relevant in Jamaica’s trading regime.
As history has demonstrated, it is never too early to plan for the future, and small steps can yield big gains. Today, we have the benefit of experience and achievement. And we know the benefits trade can bring. It is up to us to seize the opportunity. I invite all to join Jamaica and the Trade Board Limited as we work to do so.
Victor J.N. Cummings, Esq.