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Jamaican companies urged to look to Brazil for business - Ambassador touts trade-led growth

Published:Wednesday | December 11, 2013 | 12:00 AM
Brazilian Ambassador Antonio Francisco da Costa Silva. - Ricardo Makyn/Staff Photographer

 The Brazilian ambassador to Jamaica is urging the local private sector to look to his country for market opportunities and as a conduit to joint-venture initiatives in other jurisdictions.

The trade deficit between the two countries, in favour of Brazil, can also be reduced with "greater militancy" of the local private sector, Ambassador Antonio Francisco da Costa e Silva Neto said as he addressed a meeting of exporters in Kingston.

Da Costa notes that he has been trying, with little success, to interest Jamaican exporters in the Brazilian market.

"While we have had some good development in exports and imports over the years, the trade deficit in favour of Brazil is overwhelming," he said at the annual meeting of the Jamaica Exporters Association (JEA) last Thursday.

Brazil exports to Jamaica were valued at just under US$240 million in 2012, while Jamaica did just US$9.5 million of trade with the South American powerhouse.

Up to August of this year, Brazil has exported about US$176 million while importing "exactly 10 per cent of that", US$17.6 million, da Costa Silva said.

"We can open doors for Jamaican businesses not only in our market, which is already pretty big, but in Africa and other South American countries. There are opportunities for joint ventures particularly for small and medium-sized enterprises. Jamaica can also open doors for Brazil in markets where Jamaica has a traditional presence," the ambassador said.

"Rather than focusing on reverting the trade deficit, I think we should look at developing a private sector-led relationship. Instead of looking at export-led growth, we should look at trade-led growth."

The ambassador said no major hurdle exists in improving the trade between the countries. However, all major efforts up to now has been government-led, he said.

"I am still to see mobilisation from the Jamaican private sector on this, and I am a bit frustrated that we were able to create a Brazilian Jamaica Chamber of Commerce in Brazil and that no such similar institution exists in Jamaica," he said.

Tourist/visa requirements

Brazil, in a bid to bolster the trading relations, is removing the tourist and visa requirements for Jamaicans. The agreement is to be signed within months.

"Hopefully, we will do it by the beginning of the year," said da Costa Silva.

Until a new agreement is in place, the visa validity periods will be extended to five years, up from six months, and air services are being reviewed to decrease travel expenses and create easier mobility between the countries, he said.

"Hopefully, this will stimulate the private sector to explore business opportunities in Brazil," he told the JEA, adding that while the move is aimed at the tourist market, its impact on cargo could improve the opportunities for business relations.

Jamaica and Brazil, he adds, have commonalties of interest in cuisine, music and culture, which local businesses could exploit.

"The largest market for reggae music outside of Europe, United States and Canada, is Brazil. The country that has the largest number of reggae bands is also Brazil," said ambassador da Costa Silva.