The Trade Facilitation (TF) MoU was signed by Ministers, Permanent Secretaries and other representatives of the Ministries of Industry, Investment and Commerce; Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade; Health; Agriculture and Fisheries; Science, Technology, Energy and Mining; National Security; Transport, Works and Housing; Finance and Planning; and the Cabinet Office.
In his remarks, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Senator the Hon. A.J. Nicholson, said the MoU will ensure the implementation of transparent, consistent and predictable procedures at Jamaica’s borders, aimed at reducing transaction costs and improving the national trading environment.
“Given the current thrust towards establishing Jamaica as a global logistics hub, trade facilitation, will of course, play a key transformative role in improving Jamaica’s trading environment and international competitiveness. This is primarily through the establishment of improved and more efficient processes at the borders to facilitate international trade in goods that are entering Jamaica,” he said.
In addition, he noted that the MoU represents another step in Jamaica’s preparatory work to implement the World Trade Organization (WTO) Agreement on Trade Facilitation (TF) when it is entered into force.
The TF Agreement was adopted by WTO members in December 2013, at the 9th Session of the Ministerial Conference in Bali, Indonesia. The Agreement will enter into force, once two-thirds of members have completed their domestic ratification process.
It contains provisions for expediting the movement, release and clearance of goods, including goods in transit. It also sets out measures for effective cooperation between customs and other appropriate authorities on trade facilitation and customs compliance issues. It further contains provisions for technical assistance and capacity building in this area.
For Minister of Industry, Investment and Commerce, Hon. Anthony Hylton, the MoU signifies the Government’s continued work to deepen the business environment reform process to ensure measureable achievements in trade facilitation and performance.
“It signifies the next stage of reforms… and is not just a formality to satisfy treaty obligations, but to address the root causes of impediments to trade,” he noted.
Health Minister, Hon. Dr. Fenton Ferguson, for the part, said the MoU “represents best practice in relation to joined-up government and whole of Government approach to developing our country and moreso, in looking at what is needed most at this time for economic growth”.
The MoU is expected to remove obstacles in order to facilitate ease of movement of goods and services through the ports for the benefit of business persons, in particular importers and exporters, and Government Ministries, Departments and Agencies.
It identifies the roles and responsibilities of the parties toward improving the environment for trade facilitation in Jamaica, which is expected to result in greater accountability, reduce the cost and complexity of doing business and improve access to statistical data.
The agreement also seeks to adopt internationally accepted norms, standards and best practices for the import, export, transit and transshipment of goods while taking into account Jamaica’s development objectives.
In addition, it will ensure that trade is facilitated and conducted in a safe and secure environment utilising Information and Communications Technology (ICT), modern institutional structures and adequate resources with ISO 9001 Quality Management System Standards.
The MoU came to fruition through the work of the Trade Facilitation Task Force, the body responsible for promoting and coordinating trade facilitation measures in Jamaica. It is housed at the Trade Board.