We are here to help you, US ambassador tells Jamaica
MONTEGO BAY, St James — United States Ambassador to Jamaica Donald Tapia, who has noted that bilateral trading relationship between Jamaica and the US is largely dominated by the importation of US goods, has urged Jamaica to ramp up the exportation of products to his country.
The ambassador's encouragement comes on the heels of a recent announcement in the House of Representatives by Prime Minister Andrew Holness that Jamaica and China will focus on increasing trade, particularly in getting more Jamaican goods into the Chinese market.
Holness said Jamaica has begun exporting live lobsters to China, and was in the process of finalising the procedures with the Chinese authorities to allow for the export of frozen lobsters.
Speaking at the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry (MBCCI) Awards Banquet at the Montego Bay Convention Centre Saturday night, Tapia noted that “some 40 per cent of the trade in Jamaica is from America”.
“Total US goods exported to Jamaica is US$2.7 billion, but the United States imports nearly US$600 million per year from Jamaica. Ladies and gentlemen, we have got to change the balance of goods being traded back and forth. I know that's strange coming from a US ambassador, but I have said many things that have been strange and you have probably read about them in the paper,” Tapia said.
At the same time, the US diplomat cited the need for the sale of local goods to America to be diversified, as currently agricultural products consist of 95 per cent of the sales through the Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), unlike Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana.
He explained that through the CBI programme the United States Government offers trade preferences that Jamaican companies, both small and large, can use to export products, duty free into the United States.
“Countries such as Haiti, Trinidad and Tobago and Guyana export millions of dollars of apparel, leather goods, fuel, and oil to the States, while Jamaica primarily exports agricultural products. So we can see here tonight that is a great opportunity for your group here. How can we change this 95 per cent? How can we change the balance of trade? Its your country [and] I am here to help you. That's what we are here for. Please use us.We are here standing ready to help you,” Tapia remarked.
“CBI is a non-reciprocal programme aimed to help Caribbean countries develop capabilities to access US markets.”
He revealed that there are Jamaican exporters who are denied up to 20 per cent refund under the CBI programme simply as a result of failing to fill out a one-page document.
“You don't get the full five to 20 per cent tax refund for your export because of one reason. You don't fill out a one-page document. That one-page document puts you in a different relationship in the profitability to your company. Five to 20 per cent that you could recoup by filling out one single piece of paper.
“And if, in fact, you need help we are more than happy at the embassy to show you what you need to do to get this tax break.”
Meanwhile, popular St James businessman and philanthropist Mark Kerr-Jarrett was inducted into the Montego Bay Chamber of Commerce and Industry Business Leaders Wall of Fame.
First introduced in 2015, the Wall of Fame, which boasts calibre inductees such as hotel mogul Gordon “Butch” Stewart, publisher Lloyd B Smith, and Tourism Enhancement Fund Chairman Godfrey Dyer, was designed as a way to recognise individuals who have made a lasting contribution to the community for more than 20 years.
Other chamber awardees were:
• New Investment, Business Development and Expansion Award – Bioprist;
•Corporate Partner Award –Margaritaville;
•Chamber Support Award – Tropical Tours Limited;
• Hospitality Services Partner Awards – S Hotel;
• MSME Award – Life Call Ambulance Services;
• Young Entrepreneur Award
– Honey Vera;
•Outstanding Development and Expansion in BPO Teleperformance
and Lifetime Achievement Award – Lloyd's Department Store.