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Jamaica could become regional economic hub under EPA

Jamaica Observer

Jamaica could become regional economic hub under EPA

13 February 2009

Jamaica could become the business and industrial hub of the Caribbean and the Americas, thanks to the opportunities presented under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), signed recently between CARIFORUM States and the European Union (EU).

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr Ken Baugh, outlined a massive vision of economic growth and development for the island, to be stimulated by direct European investment, at the first Jamaica United Kingdom (UK) Investment forum, staged by Jamaica Trade and Invest (JTI), in London, on February 5.

The development plan sees Jamaica expanding its trading practices to include non-traditional export sectors, such as services, culture, sports and intellectual property. It also focuses on the building of stronger links with established and new trading partners, offering investors access to an intricate network of markets in Europe, the Caribbean and the Americas.

Dr Baugh spoke to the tremendous benefits that European investors stood to access, as a result of doing business with Jamaica, and sold the island as a potential industrial hub, offering an excellent logistical and infrastructural foundation for investment.

He described the signing of the EPA as a tremendous achievement, noting that the emphasis has now shifted to the establishment of Government, Parliamentary and Administrative structures to ensure its smooth implementation.

The minister invited prospective European investors to take advantage of the agreement and to become part of the process to ensure that the EPA works for all stakeholders.

In selling Jamaica’s vision of achieving developed world status by 2030, he described the country as the place to live, work, raise families and do business. He said Jamaica was aggressively positioning itself as the place to do business in the context of its overall development objectives.

He outlined a number of areas in which Jamaica possessed competitive advantage as an ideal location for investment. He pointed to the country’s stable Parliamentary democracy; the simplification of regulations and procedures for creating a more investment-friendly environment; legislation which protects and guarantees the rights, powers and privileges of investors; the natural economic advantage presented by the island’s strategic geographical location and the fact that there are no language barriers with the English-speaking international business community.

The minister said that the comprehensive nature of the EPA, which covers goods, services, investment, competition, intellectual property, public procurement, labour and environmental provisions, had forced Jamaica to take a more aggressive approach towards implementation.

"We want to ensure that Jamaica’s trade develops beyond traditional goods into new areas, such as services, and we want to see our trade with Europe grow beyond our traditional partners, to include the new European Economic Community members in Eastern Europe," he argued.

"We are also looking to engage the North American market more aggressively, beginning with the possible negotiation of a free trade agreement with Canada, this year. We will also be looking at deepening existing trade agreements with our regional partners, to ensure that we create conditions for the private sector to benefit and to trade," he added.

Dr Baugh alerted stakeholders and potential investors to the fact that companies that do business in Jamaica, under the EPA, would benefit from the country’s objective to become a partner in trade and economic co-operation in much larger marketplaces of the hemisphere and the rest of the world.

He also emphasised the critical fact that goods and services produced in Jamaica, under the EPA, would have up to 86 per cent elimination in customs duties, when they enter Europe.

Other speakers at the forum included, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Karl Samuda, and Minister without Portfolio in the Ministry of Finance and the Public Service, Don Wehby.