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Reduce trade barriers, United States ambassador urges Jamaican Government

Published:Saturday | March 7, 2015 | 3:00 AMGary Spaulding
United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Luis G. Moreno.

United States (US) Ambassador Luis G. Moreno has called on Jamaica to lower barriers to trade as he is banking on the doubling of trade between the two countries over the next decade.

"I call on my Jamaican partners to reduce tariff and non-tariff barriers to US products," said Moreno. "I understand the role tariffs and customs duties play in Jamaican government finances."

Moreno noted that a recently ended United States Agency for International Development programme called PRIDE Jamaica significantly assisted Government with revenue collection. "But reducing trade barriers and generating growth go hand in hand," he said.

In his first address to the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, Moreno told local business interests on Thursday at the Knole Great House in St Andrew, that the lowering of trade barriers was necessary in order to streamline systems that would enable businesses to flourish.

"To compete regionally and globally, Jamaica cannot sit in the middle of the pack. It must be an attractive place to do business," said Moreno.

Added Moreno: "I give you my commitment that we will reach out to the American business community - just as we have for the Jamaica Investment Forum next week - and that I will personally promote Jamaica as a destination for American investment.

He said that while the US Embassy will continue to do its part, it is up to Jamaica to make the case for companies to invest. "Jamaica must show the world that this is a safe, secure and profitable destination to do business," he said.

 

Streamline process

 

In this vein, Moreno commended Jamaica for this year's jump in the World Bank's Doing Business Report.

"That's a Usain Bolt-like performance," quipped Moreno. "But like Mr Bolt, we cannot rest on this laurel ... streamlining bureaucratic processes, increasing productivity, and opening up financing to more entrepreneurs will break through the economic stagnation."

Moreno stressed that the US fully supports Jamaica's efforts to complete its International Monetary Fund (IMF) programme. "I recognise the many sacrifices and I know there will continue to be challenges," he said.

He said the support of business leaders in the IMF push was essential. "You don't need to agree with every decision taken along the way, but we must be unified in this overall goal," he said. "I urge you to back, not just the legislative changes, but the tangible implementation."

According to Moreno, a successful IMF programme would put Jamaica back on solid footing to make essential public investments in infrastructure, education, health, and security.

Moreno was also emphatic that Jamaica must fully embrace the strategic importance of trade. "Trade will be key to defeating economic stagnation," he said. "This is why I am challenging everyone here tonight and across the island .. . I want to see US-Jamaica trade double over the next decade."

He stressed that private-sector investment - both domestic and international - must be priority. Private sector-led growth has proven to be the only sustained and sustainable model over the last century.

To this end, Moreno said supporting broader development goals in this $90-million project, the US government, through the Overseas Private Investment Corporation (OPIC), jumped in with more than $40 million in financing.