Fri | Dec 13, 2019

Tapia prods private sector to boost exports - US undersecretary of commerce to visit Jamaica next month

Published:Tuesday | December 3, 2019 | 12:30 AMAlbert Ferguson/Gleaner Writer
United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia.
United States Ambassador to Jamaica, Donald Tapia.

WESTERN BUREAU:

With only US$600-million worth of goods being exported from Jamaica to the United States (US) annually, America’s most senior diplomat here has urged local private-sector leaders to increase crossborder trade.

Citing a recent report, Tapia said that 40 per cent of trade to Jamaica comes from the United States, where American exports to the northern Caribbean country is valued at US$2.7 billion. Jamaican merchants, he said, should be more aggressive in rebalancing the scales.

“We’ve got to change the balance of goods being traded back and forth,” Tapia said Saturday at an awards banquet of the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry, held at the Montego Bay Convention Centre in St James.

“I know that is strange coming from a US ambassador, but I said a lot of things that has been strange,” he said, while acknowledging that Jamaica’s economy is pregnant with investment opportunity for which the US private sector can lead other investors to the island to further boost the economy. In his ‘strange’ quip, Tapia was apparently referring to his use of social media in communicating US policy, as well as fiery comments directed at the Chinese government.

“I strongly believe that the US private sector can lead the way to increase investment on the island,” said Tapia.

The ambassador’s views appear to diverge from those at the White House, where President Donald Trump has promulgated a trade philosophy of America first – preferring to arm-wrestle historical allies and rivals alike in favour of US businesses.

TRADE WAR

The US and China have been locked in a bitter trade war over the last two years through the imposition of tariffs valued at billions of dollars on exports.

Tom Gilman, chief financial officer and assistant secretary for administration, United States Department of Commerce, is expected to visit the island on January 3, 2020 to discuss prospective business partnerships with the American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, as well as local private-sector leaders.

Citing improved macroeconomic fundamentals, such as debt to gross domestic product falling from 150 per cent to less than 100 per cent, Tapia argued that the country was poised for growth.

“Jamaica has made it easier to do business by removing burdens, regulatory barriers, and making permits a lot easier than they have been in the past, which has paved the way for more foreign investors be become attracted to Jamaica,” he added.

editorial@gleanerjm.com