LETTER | The Jamaica Trade Information Portal three years later
THE EDITOR, Madam:
It is without a doubt that the COVID-19 pandemic has negatively impacted the economic progress of most, if not all countries around the world. Jamaica, like many other countries, is grappling with its share of the social and economic setbacks. Our GDP, which is heavily reliant on tourism, declined by approximately 9.9 per cent in 2020 as compared with a recorded growth of 0.9 per cent in 2019. This is undoubtedly the largest economic setback in Jamaica’s history.
The Jamaican economy is highly trade-oriented, where exports and imports of goods and services represent approximately 90 per cent of GDP. It is, therefore, critical that trade takes centre stage as we reopen our economy. However, cognisance must be taken of the significant changes occurring in the way we trade, as a consequence of the lessons being learnt from trading in the context of a pandemic.
Key features of this change are the accelerated digitisation of how we trade, as well as the changing demand for the types of goods and services traded. Undoubtedly, in this new context, information is king, and successful traders –both importers and exporters – are finding that trade data and information related to market intelligence, market access, and trade agreements are vital to success.
In this regard, the Jamaica Trade Information Portal, JTIP, was launched in May 2019. This is an informational portal and is the only one of its kind in the English-speaking Caribbean. JTIP was launched by the Trade Board in partnership with the World Bank and several other government entities that are custodians of the information shared on the portal.
The establishment of the JTIP further signified Jamaica’s fulfilment of its commitment to the World Trade Organization Trade Facilitation Agreement, under Article I, which speaks to making information available through the internet to all traders, domestic and foreign. Additionally, JTIP is critical to improvement in Jamaica’s competitiveness through our ranking on the Global Competitive Index, and is, therefore, a means of stimulating social and economic growth.
As we continue to navigate these unprecedented times, plans are well advanced to make JTIP even more relevant and to consistently add value to traders. The dynamic trade environment in which we operate requires us to be innovative and to be strategic in the way in which we harvest, interpret, and disseminate trade-related information and data. JTIP, therefore, needs to be a well-organised and efficient source of current and relevant information that is expansive and easily accessible. Plans are afoot to update and expand the scope and reach of the portal through the presentation of its content in English, French and Spanish; and to include trade in services, TIS, in addition to trade in goods.
Increasingly, trade in services is being recognised as an area of huge potential for recovery and further growth in the Jamaican economy. It already makes up approximately one-third of the total GDP of Jamaica and is an important focus in Jamaica’s bilateral, regional, and international trade agreements. Its inclusion in JTIP will therefore be of significant importance in economic recovery and future growth.
Dr (Major) Hugh Blake
Trade Administrator & CEO
The Trade Board Limited