“We need to diversify away from commodities like banana and sugar into value- added products. So, we have coffee, which can become a value-added product. We have many food producers who have been producing unique and interesting items,” she said.
Ms. Edwards was speaking to JIS News at a CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) workshop, held at The Knutsford Court Hotel in New Kingston on October 2.
Brought into effect on December 29, 2008, the EPA applies duty-free-quota-free market access to all products from CARIFORUM countries, except arms.
Since the signing of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA on October 15, 2008, Jamaica’s trade with the EU has declined by 67 per cent.
Ms. Edwards is recommending branding locally produced goods as “authentic Jamaican” to be marketed in Europe.
“Jamaican music is also another huge opportunity, which we have never used to promote Jamaican products. There are about 20 to 30 music festivals in Europe. We need a programme to position Jamaican cuisine, music and the whole lifestyle as a vehicle to sell our products,” she said.
Meanwhile, the JAMPRO Head said plans are in the offing to position Jamaica in the top 10 of Doing Business.
“We are actually working very hard with the World Bank on a specific agenda, on a specific menu of steps, which will take us into the top 10,” she said.
A part of the process will be to make the “permitting and approvals process easier, which is really critical,” Ms. Edwards said.
Produced by the World Bank, the Doing Business Report presents quantitative indicators on business regulation and the protection of property rights that can be compared across 190 economies. For 2018, Jamaica ranks 70.
Ms. Edwards urged local business owners in attendance to seize the opportunities provided by the workshop on the EPA.
In his remarks, Board Member of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Claude Duncan, said his agency recently started implementation of the Regional Private Sector Development Programme, under the 11th European Development Fund.
“A large focus under this Fund will be to ensure that firms and the organisations that support them are more aware of the EPA, the opportunities that exist for Caribbean producers and service providers and how they can capitalise on these opportunities,” he said.
Mr. Duncan encouraged local business owners to learn about intellectual property rights, while learning about access to the EU market.
For his part, Head of Cooperation of the EU Delegation to Jamaica, Ricard Bardia Divins, noted that the EPA is central to the European trade strategy in the Caribbean.
He explained that its function is not solely about reducing tariffs, but is also about “creating a friendly business environment to promote a more competitive private sector”.
“The main goal of the EPA is to make it easier for businesses from both regions to invest in and trade with each other and to stimulate economic growth and job creation across the Caribbean,” he said.
Held in collaboration with the EU, JAMPRO and the Caribbean Export Development Agency, the EPA workshop was aimed at sensitising the local business community and government departments on the benefits and opportunities of the EPA for Jamaican exporters and entrepreneurs.
The one-day event explored topics such as ‘Preparing to export to the European Market’, and ‘Understanding EU rules and Regulations’.
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