Mon | Dec 18, 2017

Editorial | Ahmad’s ambitious agenda

Published:Saturday | September 9, 2017 | 12:00 AM

A new envoy is in town, and he has big ambitions. We refer to the newly accredited British high commissioner to Jamaica, Asif Ahmad.

Two of his big interests are security and trade. On the matter of security, Jamaica can do with all the help it can get because there is general consensus that crime and violence is the greatest obstacle the country must hurdle in order to enjoy any measure of prosperity.

Arresting criminals, disrupting gangs and their networks, and bringing accused persons to trial swiftly are some of the urgent remedies that are needed.

While the United Kingdom resolves its issues with the trade bloc known as the European Union (EU), there are nervous fears that it could walk away from those talks without a deal. That would mean the UK would abandon the EU single market and customs union. But it also would mean that the UK would become free to strike out on its own and establish new trade deals with the rest of the world.

The UK think tank, the Institute of Economic Affairs (IEA), has argued that post-Brexit, the UK could eliminate EU red tape by cutting all import tariffs and then seek free-trade deals with other trading partners. Jamaica must jump quickly to determine what non-traditional goods and services it could efficiently produce and offer to that market of 65 million.

 

RENEW FOCUS ON TRADE

 

Suggesting that the UK's priority must be the consumer, the IEA said a system of much broader free trade with the rest of the world would definitely help to bring down prices to the benefit of consumers.

In an interview with this newspaper, Mr Ahmad expressed his intention to work to replace Spain as the number-one European investor in the island. Spanish investment in the hotel industry has been growing at a phenomenal rate; if the British intend to outrun them, then it all augurs well for Jamaica.

Spanish investment in Jamaica accounts for more than 10,000 hotel rooms and is increasing. These investments provide jobs and also attract thousands of visitors from Spain to the island, likely triggering an economic ripple in other industries.

Hopefully, Mr Ahmad's interest will stir the Government and its agencies, such as the Economic Growth Council, into renewing focus on trade, aid and investment relations with Britain. We implore the trade negotiators to quickly engage Mr Ahmad while he is fresh and excited, so that his lofty ambitions are not quashed.

It should also be a time of assessment of how bilateral and CARICOM relationships with the EU and the UK may change once Brexit comes into force in 2019. For example, how will special trade pacts like Cotonou and the Economic Partnership Agreement governing exportation of banana and sugar impact Jamaica and CARICOM?

We sincerely hope that Mr Ahmad's ambitions will come to fruition as his clear expressions of support suggest that he is ready to expand the important historical ties that exist between Jamaica and her former colonial master. We wish for him a successful tour of duty.