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Jamaica still not export competitive - Hylton

Published:Thursday | August 20, 2015 | 3:33 PMChristopher Serju

Jamaica still has a long way to become export competitive on the global market, Anthony Hylton, Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce admitted last week at the launch of the 2015-2019 phase of the National Export Strategy held at the Terra Nova All-Suites Hotel, St Andrew.

"We have a way to go and prime minister, I should say it is one of the reasons, why this morning's Gleaner headline comes into focus. We have to do more, very quickly," he said, referring to the newspapers lead story headline 'Bad bill for logistics hub'.

The story is centred on the general agreement among members of the business community that the amended draft Customs bill now before Parliament, is flawed. In fact, Charles Johnston, chairman of the Jamaica Producers Group was moved to offer this advice to the Government.

"In Jamaica, we take a long time to change laws. This Customs law has been on our books for a long time. When is it going to be changed?

"Do everything now, even it takes six months long. Do it now and do it properly."

Meanwhile, even as he conceded the need for Jamaica to renew its efforts to confirm to the new environment in which business is conducted, in order to keep pace with the global marketplace, the commerce minister made it clear that the country is way offline. He cited data from the 2014 Doing Business Report which highlights the glaring disparity in the ease of doing business in Panama, compared to Jamaica.

"Jamaica takes an average of 20 days to export, requiring six documents at a cost of US$1,530 per container. To import, it takes an average of 17 days, requiring completion of seven documents at cost of US$2,130 per container," the minister disclosed.

He continued: "In comparison, in Panama it takes an average of 10 days to export, using three documents at a cost of US$625 per container and to import requires nine days and three documents at a cost of US$965 per container."

lower tariff barriers

Hylton also used the occasion to lament that while tariff barriers and regulatory barriers are being systematically lowered worldwide, non-tariff barriers and especially technical barriers to trade, have become more pronounced, impeding the access of our products and services to global markets.

"One such technical barrier is the Food Safety Modernisation Act (FSMA) of Jamaica we face similar barriers in the import/export process," he said.

Hylton's comments came in the wake of the challenge from Kevon Wilson, senior analyst with Tourism Intelligence International that in order to grow its export competitiveness, Jamaica needs to understand and respond to global trends. This includes an appreciation of how information communication and other technologies have resulted in a paradigm shift in how business is done successfully.

"The strategies and actions and initiatives of the past will not work today. We need to come up with new initiatives, new strategies in order to forge ahead in greater and greater competitiveness.Those are the consumers we are dealing with and we need to respond to their changing needs with surgical precision, otherwise we'll be left out of the game," he warned.