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(JAMAICA OBSERVER) – MINISTER of Industry, Commerce, Agriculture and Fisheries Audley Shaw says that Jamaica is not in a position to become the lone “single market” in Caricom.
“It is inexplicable how quickly we move to establish SPS (Sanitary and Phytosanitary) protocols between third countries and Caricom, while our requests to member states for access languish for years,” Shaw told the House of Representatives on Tuesday as he debated a report from a Jamaican commission appointed by the Government to review the country’s engagement with Caricom.
“Recall for instance, the challenges we experienced in getting Jamaican patties into Trinidad, Barbados and Belize. Juxtapose this against the volume of goods entering Jamaica from those markets; Jamaica alone cannot be the ‘single’ market,” he argued.
Shaw, who was Jamaica’s minister of finance and the public service up to April this year, said that Jamaica has emerged as the “single” market that everyone wants to access.
“We have, however, experienced significant challenges in accessing the Caricom market, largely on the grounds of SPS measures. In this regard, I support the commission’s recommendation that calls for the removal of all non-tariff barriers and the establishment of agreed protocols for SPS measures,” he stated.
“Let me be clear, Jamaica has achieved self-sufficiency in a number of agricultural goods, including chicken, eggs, pork, and several vegetables and tubers.
“Any further expansion in our productive capacity of these goods will only be possible with access to near shore preferential markets. Jamaica sees Caricom as a natural extension of its domestic market and we will be relentless and aggressive in pursuing this market, as we not only have the capacity so to do, but we have a right as enshrined in the revised treaty,” he said.
“We must therefore accelerate every effort to have the necessary harmonised SPS measures in place as recommended by the Commission Report,” he added.
Shaw said that the manufacturing sector in Caricom, apart from the processing of oil in Trinidad, is overwhelmingly agro-based. He also noted Jamaica’s collective manufacturing capacity far exceeds the current agricultural output to supply raw materials.
“In fact, this mismatch should provide the perfect impetus to spur growth in agriculture… The RTC (Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas) through the provisions of the Common External Tariff and the Rules of Origin provisions are intended to foster primary agricultural production to support manufacturing. This is precisely why the RTC promotes trade in wholly produced primary goods, and sets thresholds to ensure value addition and substantial transformation,” he noted.
“The practice has been a wholesale and liberal use of extra-regional raw materials, with little value addition to produce manufactured goods in the region and then ship to the Jamaican market. All of this is happening when Jamaica itself has the capacity to produce some of those very raw materials.
“I, therefore, call on Caricom, through the COTED (Council for Trade and Economic Development) to rigorously apply these rules. Where countries demonstrate the capacity to produce the raw materials, the rules need to recognise this with adequate tariff protection and by lifting the threshold for transformation,” he pointed out.
He said that it is an affront to the peanut farmer in Jamaica not to be able to sell his peanuts, when a manufacturing entity elsewhere in Caricom can simply put a “pretty” package on extra-regional peanuts and sell it to the local market as a product of community origin.
“While we are expanding our dairy industry, provision has to be made within the rules to encourage this rather than simply importing extra-regional milk, doing a little fortification and then sell it into our market. Mr Speaker, for the CSM (Caricom Single Market) to be effective and sustainable, it has to promote the development of primary industries,” he said.