Boycott bad for all - Leaders say move practical but would hurt T&T, Jamaica interests
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Political and business leaders are admitting they are troubled by the likely outcome of a wholesale boycott of products out of Trinidad and Tobago as plans and preparations for such a move gain momentum in Jamaica.
Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce Anthony Hylton told The Gleaner yesterday that while a boycott is practical, it was not desirable.
Apart from worsening an already strained relationship between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago, local stakeholders are at one that a boycott could have a severe impact on the livelihoods of many in the region, Trinidad in particular.
They, however, differ on the course of action to address what has turned into a diplomatic challenge between the two countries.
Acknowledging that Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister A.J. Nicholson has initiated a meeting with his Trinidadian counterpart, Hylton told The Gleaner that it behoves the governments of both countries to act with dispatch to resolve burning issues.
PEOPLE READY TO ACT
He warned that if the Government fails, there were clear indications that the people are willing and ready to take matters into their own hands to launch a boycott of goods out of Trinidad and Tobago.
Hylton said he detected that the public was incensed with the treatment of Jamaicans denied entry into Trinidad on the heels of the recent ruling of the Caribbean Court of Justice in the Shanique Myrie case.
He also noted that there were other lingering issues that did not help the situation.
"It is, therefore, important that both governments understand that if they fail, the public has final say in the matter," stressed Hylton.
"So it's important that they decide these issues and find meaningful and practical solutions."
Yesterday, Doreen Frankson, a former president of the Jamaica Manufacturers' Association (JMA), asserted that an effective boycott was eminently practical, as Jamaicans are not powerless in the troubling trade imbalance that tilts certain advantages in favour of the twin-island republic.
Even as she suggested an effective boycott campaign is realistic and probable, Frankson told The Gleaner she remained staunchly averse to the attitude of Jamaica's CARICOM neighbour.
"I don't go to Trinidad because I don't want to be humiliated," declared the former manufacturer.
Frankson also scoffed at claims that the range of Trinidad and Tobago products was so essential that they could not be spurned.
"We are not powerless and they depend on our market to grow their productive sector," she said. "That is the power we have, and nobody is telling me why we will not use the remedies that we have to remind them that mutual respect is required."
Frankson told The Gleaner any claim that a boycott was impractical or unreasonable can only be made by persons or parties with vested self-interest.
"What is impractical about it?" asked Frankson. "Why do we have to import peanuts and water? Where is our pride and dignity? Where is that sense of entitlement as a people?"
With the bulk of snacks and sugary drinks as well as water pouring out of Trinidad and Tobago on to local shelves, Frankson told The Gleaner it was sensible for consumers to impose sanctions on that nation in response to how it has treated Jamaicans over the years.
President of the Micro, Small and Medium-Sized Enterprise Alliance, Professor Rosalea Hamilton, suggested that while practical, a boycott could have severe implications for the thousands of Trinidadian workers in the manufacturing sector, as such a move could jeopardise the viability of their companies.
"Any organised effort can make an impact because sentiments go deep … . If you look at the thousands of Trinidadians, thousands employed, it will have implications for the impacted persons and their families," she said.
However, Hamilton warned that Jamaica has some vested interest as well.
"We have to be careful not to cut off the nose to spite our face … . We must use treaties, the court, and mechanisms that are available within CARICOM to resolve these issues … . These boycotts should be last resorts … ."