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Hylton to push for inclusion of services in CBI during Obama visit

Published:Friday | March 20, 2015 | 3:00 AMNeville Graham

Minister of Industry Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton is committing to raise the issue of trade in services under the Caribbean Basin Initiative - an expansion that regional businesses have been pressing - during next month’s official visit by US President Barack Obama.
The Caribbean ‘Soca’ Initiative is being promoted heavily by the American Chambers of Commerce in various regional countries. The initiative – whose acronym refers to 'Services of the Caribbean' – aims to advance executive, legislative, and business-to-business (B2B) initiatives between Caricom interests and the United States.
The initiative was launched in Washington DC in 2013 in a bid to expand trade and investment in services between both markets.
“I am pledged to work with Amcham and the various groups to ensure that in the discussions that President Obama will engage with the Jamaican Government that an opportunity will be provided to raise this initiative, the Soca initiative, as a possibility and one that his administration will give support,” said Hylton, at a forum hosted by Amcham Jamaica on Wednesday.
AMCHAM is touting Soca as a better direction for bilateral trade between Caricom and the US, under the three-decade old CBI that addresses only trade in goods.
“The Soca argues for a refocusing of the CBI towards services as the dominant sector of Caricom economies and of US-Caricom trade and investment, after 30 years of a goods-based preferential trade regime which no longer reflects the economic reality of the region or of the bilateral trade and investment relationship,” Amcham Jamaica argued in documents circulated at the forum.
“Caricom goods exports to the US in 2012 totalled US$12 billion, down from US$32 billion in 2005. US goods exports to Caricom in 2012 were US$19 billion, down from US$40 billion in 2005,” the business group noted.
Soca will focus on facilitating business in  eight key services sectors: financial and insurance; education and training, including medical/nursing as well as wellness/medical tourism; ICT/call centres and e-commerce; energy services; logistics and transportation; entertainment and film/music/audiovisual and creative industries; advertising and marketing and professional services.
Hylton is particularly pleased that logistics and transportation will be part of the effort since his ministry is leading Jamaica’s Global Logistics Hub project.
“The hub is vital; it is vital to the Caribbean region, it is vital to the services trade in the region because of the linkages, the backward and forward linkages that it provides and I believe it is one of those areas in which we can make tremendous progress because of the positive implications for the US market itself,” the minister said.
The Soca Initiative is bidding to expand and replace the Caribbean Basin Initiative which was established under the Reagan administration after he visited Jamaica.

neville.graham@gleanerjm.com