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We've talked too long - JMA boss declares time to act against T&T

Published:Thursday | April 7, 2016 | 4:00 AMGary Spaulding
Seaga: We want a very clearly outlined definitive plan of action as to how we are going to deal with immigration and trade, we are asking the Government to so do post-haste.
Henlon-Forrester
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AS ANGER continues to mount against Trinidad and Tobago (T&T) over a protracted immigration and trade gridlock, the Jamaican Government is being urged to stop talking and act.

"We have talked for too long," declared Metry Seaga, president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association, as he addressed a Gleaner Editors' Forum held at the newspaper's North Street, Kingston, offices.

The focus of the forum was on the upcoming Expo Jamaica 2016, scheduled for April 14 to 17, but Seaga took time out to respond to the concerns regarding the country's relationship with T&T, particularly in light of recent complaints about ill-treatment of Jamaicans denied entry into the twin-island republic.

Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith has already launched a probe into the reports, and William Mahfood, president of the Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, has called for a boycott of that country's exports.

However, when the matter was raised about what has become a sore issue in Jamaica, T&T's largest trading partner in the region, Seaga declared that something has to give.

"We don't want to talk anymore. What we want are clear and definitive requirements from our Government to the government of Trinidad," he argued.

 

ENOUGH IS ENOUGH

 

Seaga was supported by Paul Lewis, a representative of the Jamaica Exporters' Association (JEA), who warned that local consumers continue to feel disrespected and have been saying enough is enough.

"With the recent happenings in Trinidad, I am getting the feeling that there is a different feeling that is developing in the marketplace, driven by the consumers," stressed Lewis.

Said Seaga: "Our Government must say to them: 'This is what the agreement states; this is what is happening. We need you to bring A, C, and X in line, and the timeline to so do is A, B and C'."

He continued: "We want a very clearly outlined definitive plan of action as to how we are going to deal with immigration and trade. We are asking the Government to so do post-haste."

Seaga suggested that refusal by T&T to meet the requirements would necessitate a plan of action.

Berletta Henlon-Forrester, manager, development, agriculture, and non-food manufacturing at JAMPRO, said that after a screening process, she expected at least five teams from T&T to attend the expo at the National Arena/Indoor Sports Centre in St Andrew.

Approximately 500 booths and a multitude of local products are expected to be showcased at the three-day event.

Led by former Foreign Affairs and Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson, the previous administration was engaged in talks to address concerns raised by Jamaicans. This was after scores of their compatriots were turned away, under questionable circumstances, at the Piarco Airport in the T&T capital of Port-of-Spain two years ago.

As representative Lewis suggested, there was urgent need for understanding by both countries of the CARICOM requirements. He warned of dire consequences if the situation was not resolved.

"The current administration has re-engaged what is a very serious issue. It has very serious implications across the board, and it has to be addressed in a frontal way," asserted Lewis.

He emphasised that the T&T business community needs to be re-engaged to apply pressure on its government.

"I think that we have to get back to meaningful dialogue between the two governments," asserted Lewis.

He stressed that the business community in T&T must be made aware that the situation adversely affects them in relation to products coming into Jamaica.

He argued that the T&T business community should, therefore, apply pressure on the T&T government to play its role in dealing with what is rapidly becoming an untenable issue.

"We have to, on both sides of the coin, understand what CARICOM is supposed to be about and what the long-term effects of CARICOM are supposed to be," he said.

Added Lewis: "Whenever other things get muddled with that - be it immigration issues or otherwise - it creates a reactionary outcome as opposed to a constructive outcome."

He disclosed that the JEA had been attempting to work closely with the Trinidad and Tobago manufacturing trade desk, which was active up to two years ago.

gary.spaulding@gleanerjm.com