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Hill champions export focus

Expert team to review market over six months

Published:Monday | July 4, 2022 | 12:37 AMTanesha Mundle/Staff Reporter
Aubyn Hill, minister of industry, investment and commerce.
Aubyn Hill, minister of industry, investment and commerce.

The Government is moving to revitalise and strengthen the country’s export sector, which is being positioned as a key pillar of economic growth.

As part of its ramped-up focus, the Ministry of Industry, Investment and Commerce has established an export expert team to gather industry data to help design and implement a broader plan of action.

That team comprises executives from agencies within the ministry along with industry experts.

“We have the data, but we haven’t done much with it. We need to sort it in every kind of way across Jamaica. We haffi go make people understand that export is really a good thing,” said Industry Minister Aubyn Hill during his address at the annual general meeting of the Customs Brokers and Freight Forwarders Association on Sunday.

“Dem feel that you must import and sell. That nah go make you go very far. It gets individual riches, but we need to get the country rich,” he added.

The review will be undertaken over six months and include local and overseas visits, the minister told The Gleaner.

The minister said the data will better help the ministry to guide business people towards the market with the best opportunities.

“So we want to say this is where markets are, this is what Jamaica could do, and the nearshoring effect of the bigger policy from the USA actually gives us a fillip to make sure that we have a good chance of exporting because the biggest market in the world is saying we want nearshoring in the Caribbean and Latin America.

“So all of those things are coming together, but before we do anything, we must know where we are,” Hill said.

Nearshoring is the transferring of businesses to nearby countries.

Meanwhile, the minister warned that Jamaica must close the gap between the value of exports and imports.

Citing 2021 data of imports worth US$5.98 billion, compared to exports of US$1.44 billion, Hill said that the yawning deficit presented an opportunity for Jamaica to act, not wallow in self-pity.

“We have US$4.5 billion to just make up, not to become rich yet,” he said, adding, “We can’t import so much and export so little.”

Noting that Jamaica has a population of three million and per-capita income of US$5,000, he declared that “Jamaica will never be able to become a rich country selling to only three million relatively poor people”.

But Hill noted that “the new design and implementation has to be a close, collaborative effort with all partners, large and small, in the manufacturing and service-creating sectors, not just manufacturing, but in the service sector, the BPO and tourism sector”.

In the meantime, he encouraged customs brokers to become export ambassadors and help exporters become more efficient.

The industry minister said Jamaica also has to tap more nearshore opportunities to meet the export demands of large markets like the United States.

“My ministry is committed that as even as Jamaica takes advantage of growing nearshore opportunities, especially by expanding special economic zones, we are supported by the right governance and legislative framework, increase access to the wide and international markets through accredited testing, inspection and certification services, and reduce trade pass for exporters and manufacturers,” he said.