Edmond Campbell, Senior Staff Reporter
A COLLABORATIVE effort by four powerful local private-sector bodies, the public sector and academia is expected to give birth to 'The Trade House' in January 2014.
This is intended to be a key institutional framework to deal with pressing issues of trade between players in CARICOM.
The Private Sector Organisation of Jamaica, the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), the Jamaica Exporters' Association, and the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce (JCC) are playing a pivotal role in the establishment of The Trade House.
For years, members of the local private sector have complained about a myriad of trade-related issues with their CARICOM partners, particularly Trinidad and Tobago.
Appearing before the Internal and External Affairs Committee of Parliament, Howard Mitchell, chairman of the Private Sector Working Group on CARICOM and Other Trade Agreements, last Tuesday argued that for too long, members of the private sector have pursued their own individual interests with the regional trading bloc without exploring the benefits of working with their colleagues.
"The concept is that The Trade House would be a clearing house for not only CARICOM matters, because there are other pressing issues, many of which are related to the fact that CARICOM is not working," Mitchell asserted.
He said the idea is to create an institution with the requisite skills to assist the Government to deal with complex trade issues and to provide immediate avenues of communication and support.
The private-sector bodies told the committee that various administrations, through ignorance of private-sector needs or concen-tration on aspects of CARICOM that have greater political impact, have ignored trade problems.
Private-sector organisations were invited to make a presentation to the committee on issues impacting trade within CARICOM.
Mitchell suggested that annual summits, outside of the Secretariat, should be held where the private sector from CARICOM states could attend and exchange ideas.
He reported that the JCC and the JMA have made steady progress in relation to some of the trade challenges that occur between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.
"The Chamber of Commerce and the JMA have established desks in Jamaica and Trinidad that cooperate in dealing with the challenges of non-tariff barriers and the Rules of Origin," Mitchell added.