Jermaine Francis, Staff Reporter
Ambassador Irwin Larocque, CARICOM's secretary general, believes Caribbean states are relying too heavily on trading goods, almost to the detriment of the services traded within the region.
Speaking with The Gleaner at the newspaper's Kingston offices yesterday, Larocque said the bloc should diversify its trade offerings.
"There's a preoccupation about the benefits of CARICOM, and it's always measured in terms of trading goods, and I am saying to you, that is only a part of the picture," he said. "There's trade in services which is what the CSME (CARICOM Single Market Economy) brought about."
Larocque said countries like Jamaica have a comparative advantage in trading services in areas such as accounting, medical, legal ,and cultural industries.
He added that trading was already taking place in these areas, but more focus should be placed on how CARICOM countries can further benefit from the services trade.
"We don't have [as] yet the accurate tools to measure it, I have to confess, but the work that is being done by others such as UNCTAD (United Nations Conference on Trade Development) to measure services is already pointing to the potential and also benefits that can be derived from services," he added.
Larocque also expressed the view that it was unfair for persons to judge the successes of CARICOM solely on trade, as it has amassed many successes in other areas.
Using the health sector as an example, he said: "The successes that we are making in the health arena as a region is well noted internationally. Then, when you come to economics or the trade of it, you cannot simply look at goods trade, you have to look at services trade."
Larocque said the trade imbalance was partly to be blamed on the current trade agreements based primarily on goods.
"There's a heavy trade imbalance because of energy, and you have to buy the energy from somewhere … . So, you have to look now at what else can you trade [apart from goods]."