Business Editorial: Jamaica Calls

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Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness, left, and Prime Minister Keith Rowley speak to the media at St Ann’s Diplomatic Center on August 29. – ANGELO MARCELLE

ON MONDAY, a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed between that country and Jamaica in hopes of boosting trade between the two nations.

But the nature of the deal itself was an acknowledgment of the trade challenges that have long hampered efforts at closer economic integration.

Foreign Minister Dr Amery Browne and Jamaican Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith have signed the Memorandum of Understanding establishing a Trade Complaints Mechanism which will create a pathway “for the expeditious resolution of trade complaints”.

These complaints and disputes reflect a history of tension, even animosity, between players in the two markets. These tensions no doubt reflect cultural, and not just logistical, challenges to the free flow of goods.

The signing of the agreement came as the country rolled out the red carpet to welcome Jamaican Prime Minister Andrew Holness as part of the commemoration of the country’s 60 years of independence.

Mr Holness, whose country also celebrated 60 years of independence earlier in August, had the rare distinction of being a guest in Wednesday morning’s Independence Day parade.

Just a few weeks ago, this country welcomed another key Caricom leader, the President of Guyana, Dr Mohamed Ifraan Ali, and made similar pledges to strengthen business collaborations, with a focus on agriculture. and food security.

In the interest of all, we can only hope that these bilateral agreements go beyond mere promises and lead to action.

The pomp and circumstance surrounding the two visits did not hide the obvious need for effective follow-up action.

Prime Minister TT and Mr Holness came together this week to tout the merits of deepening exchanges between the two nations, including in relation to the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).

But it wasn’t until a few years ago, in 2016, that Dr Rowley was called to Jamaica by Mr Holness as part of plans to boycott TT products.

A year earlier, a much publicized experiment in airline cooperation, which saw Caribbean Airlines Limited (CAL) acquire Air Jamaica, ended in failure.

Even further back, although we have marked the events of 1962 this week, it should also not be forgotten that this was the year of the collapse of the West Indies Federation after the withdrawal of Jamaica, which prompted TT Premier Dr Eric Williams to declare “one of ten leaves nothing.

Only a few years ago a split in Caricom occurred which saw Jamaica meet separately with representatives of former US President Donald Trump.

Regional trade challenges include bureaucracy, crime, social instability and climate change, which make it difficult for businesses to access larger markets.

But the stakes are also political and cultural.

Despite a shared history, as evidenced this week by the fact of the anniversary of diamond independence between TT and Jamaica, and despite many cultural overlaps, there remains a spirit of division.

Dr. Rowley and Mr. Holness hope the world changes and things unfreeze between our two nations. Maybe the two think a free flow of goods could help people come together. It may be the reverse.

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