Jamaicas free trade deals with Costa Rica and Dominican Republic has local manufacturers worried that the agreements could end up hurting the sector.
Jamaica already is on the weaker end of trade gaps with the two countries.
"Existing data does not support that free trade agreements with these countries have resulted in increased market access for Jamaican products. Rather, imports from these countries have increased," said Jamaica Manufacturers Association president Brian Pengelley at his re-election for a send term on June 26.
Pengelley also warned of potential market displacement, saying that many of the goods imported from Dominican Republic and Costa Rica competes with goods manufactured locally, including soaps, rum, corrugated cartons, biscuits, jams, soups, pastas, sausages, coffee and mattresses.
In 2011, Jamaica imported US$51 million worth of goods from the Dominican Republic but only exported US$5 million worth of goods to that country; imports from Costa Rica were valued at US$52 million but exported goods valued at just US$726,000.
"Does this feel like a balanced trading position?" said Pengelley. We cannot afford for imports to displace local production, as the implications for employment, foreign exchange savings and government revenue are potentially disastrous, he said.
The JMA president said the sector needs breathing space to position for competitive trading.
Our Government must take the responsibility for creating this space and then the private sector must step in and make it happen, he said.
Jamaica last year ran a trade gap of US$4.8 billion with its partners worldwide, up from J$4.5 billion in 2011.