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JLP supports CARICOM but concerned on trade issues

Published:Monday | July 9, 2012 | 12:00 AM

The Jamaica Labour Party (JLP) supports the principles of CARICOM and the need for regional economies to work together on issues that can lead to the strengthening and protection of individual and collective country interests.

The JLP accepts fully that CARICOM has served positively the interests of the people of the region in several areas including education and training, regional security and disaster management, and collectively lobbying in the international arena on matters that affect the countries of CARICOM.

On these and other similar issues that can positively impact the lives of Caribbean people, the JLP is in support of strengthening collaboration within the CARICOM framework.

On each occasion when the JLP has raised concerns about Jamaica's membership in CARICOM it relates to the concerns on trade issues within the CARICOM arrangement, which has seen a consistently significant trade imbalance between Jamaica and its CARICOM trading partners, and in particular, between Jamaica and its CARICOM colleague Trinidad and Tobago.

Jamaica's interests

On this issue, the JLP remains concerned that on matters of trade, Jamaica's interests are not being served within the existing CARICOM arrangement and our policymakers, led by the Government of the day, has a duty to act more decisively in assessing the economic impact of the existing arrangement and propose measures that would level the playing field within the CARICOM market space, to allow Jamaican entrepreneurs and Jamaican products to compete under similar conditions as other member states.

While the JLP accepts that the local policy framework and individual firm competitiveness are important in determining favourable trade balances with our CARICOM trading partners, the JLP is very concerned about a number of clauses of the existing treaty of Chagaramus which can be manipulated to provide unfair advantages to certain member states.

The specific areas of concern include verification of the rules of origin status for goods trading as CARICOM products, the manipulation of the Common External Tariff to access on favorable terms semi-finished goods extra-regionally as raw materials, and the energy subsidy applied to goods manufactured in Trinidad and Tobago.

On these issues, the JLP believes that there should be a review within CARICOM and by the Jamaican Government to determine the impact of these measures on the competitive environment within CARICOM and impact on Jamaican firms. This assessment, the JLP believes, should form the basis for the Jamaican Government to decide on a framework going forward with CARICOM which should not exclude changing Jamaica's status within the CARICOM agreement.