U.S. Statement at the WTO Trade Policy Review of Jamaica

WTO_OMC centeredStatement as delivered by Christopher Wilson,
USTR Deputy Chief of Mission/Chargé d’affaires a.i.

Geneva, September 13, 2017

Thank you, Chair.

The United States welcomes Minister Johnson Smith and the delegation from Kingston on the occasion of its government’s fourth WTO Trade Policy Review.  We thank the Government of Jamaica and the WTO Secretariat for their helpful reports on developments affecting trade in Jamaica since the last Trade Policy Review in 2011.  We also want to express our appreciation for the responses received to our written questions and look forward to receiving the remaining outstanding questions.

With one of the largest economies in the Caribbean region, Jamaica has a leading position on economic and trade issues.  Through its economic reforms, Jamaica made significant improvements to its business environment, resulting in top-ten improved economies status in the World Bank’s Doing Business reports in 2015 and 2016.  Jamaica was recognized by the Financial Times as the top performing island globally in “business friendliness” and among the top ten in “connectivity,” “human capital,” and “lifestyle.”  The Government of Jamaica, through successive administrations, implemented economic reforms through its International Monetary Fund programs starting in 2013 to achieve these recognitions.

Jamaica has been a major proponent of regional economic integration and was among the first to reduce duties on goods from its CARICOM partners.  The country remains the largest recipient of CARICOM goods, importing $618 million worth in 2016 and exporting $58 million to other CARICOM states.  This trade deficit is due in part to Jamaica’s firm stance against export subsidies and local content requirements.

Jamaica is also a strong trading partner of the United States – one of the most important in the region.  Forty percent of Jamaica’s total trade flowed to the United States in 2016.  U.S. exports to Jamaica totaled $1.7 billion, including mineral fuels, machinery, cereals, prepared food, and other agricultural products.  U.S. foreign direct investment in Jamaica was $204 million in 2015, a 2.0% increase from 2014.  The United States provides duty-free treatment for almost all products imported from Jamaica.  Imported items include alumina, rum, and food products. We encourage Jamaica to take advantage of these trade opportunities as it develops its National Export Strategy, an element of the Vision 2030 initiative.  The United States is also home to one of the largest communities of people of Jamaican heritage, estimated to be more than 700,000.  Reflective of Jamaica’s success in tourism, more than 1.3 million visitors were from the United States last year.  Indeed, the number of American visitors grew faster than the average rate.

The Jamaican economy is heavily dependent on services such as tourism; services account for more than 70 percent of GDP.  Earnings from remittances and tourism each account for about 15 percent of GDP.  But Jamaica’s economy has grown on average by less than 1 percent a year for the last three decades, and impediments to growth remain, such as the large public sector which crowds out private-sector spending and the high level of debt as a result.  Jamaica, however, has made commendable progress in reducing its debt-to-GDP ratio to about 115 percent in 2017 from a high of almost 150 percent in 2012.  Jamaica’s goal of reducing its debt burden to 60 percent of GDP by 2025 will help free resources for investment in trade and other growth-producing sectors.  Already, Jamaica has seen signs of increased economic growth at 1.7 percent last year.

As we stressed in the last review in 2011, implementing and ensuring science based SPS measures facilitate trade in high-quality agriculture products. Unfortunately, Jamaica still bans imports of U.S. pork due to concerns about a viral disease that can affect swine.  As the United States has explained to Jamaica, this disease has been eliminated in commercial production in the United States as of 2004.  We will, once again, be interested to hear from Jamaica about its plans to remove its ban on imports of U.S. pork.  We hope that this Trade Policy Review will encourage Jamaica to focus on the importance of consistently implementing science-based sanitary and phytosanitary measures as a critical component of its competitiveness strategy.

The United States welcomed Jamaica’s leadership is the negotiation of the Trade Facilitation Agreement as well as its ratification of that agreement in 2016.  The TFA holds great promise for developing country Members to boost trade performance.  We also note that a Trade Facilitation Task Force will develop a road map and project plan to “enhance the potential contribution of trade to economic growth.”  We welcome any opportunity, for us or other stakeholders, to provide input on this important initiative.

As the Secretariat Report points out, Jamaica is a member of several intellectual property treaties, including the Berne Convention, the WIPO Copyright Treaty, the WIPO Performances and Phonograms Treaty, and the Beijing Treaty.  While further progress is needed, Jamaica deserves credit for its regional leadership in this area.  Last June, the U.S. Government worked with the Jamaican and CARICOM authorities to conduct a Broadcast Piracy Seminar.  Approximately 45 CARICOM member states officials and 30 private sector representatives attended the program.  U.S. content providers offered to explore the possibility of a collective license for the smaller, community-based cable operators, and the broadcast regulatory agencies committed to revoking licenses of cable operators who continue to transmit unlicensed content.  We appreciate Jamaica’s commitment to working with our government and service providers on this important concern affecting the broader region. Given progress in the area of copyright protection, we hope the Government of Jamaica will commit to joining the Marrakesh Treaty.

The United States looks forward to working with Jamaica to increase prosperity in the Caribbean and the hemisphere.  By continuing with structural debt reduction, public sector reforms, and anti-corruption efforts, Jamaica is making progress toward building sustained economic growth.  We encourage Jamaica, in the implementation of its National Trade Policy Framework, to focus on policies that enable investment in growth areas such as the services sector.

Finally, I would like to offer a particular tribute to the role that Ambassador McCook has played, and continues to play, within this organization on behalf of his country.  Ambassador McCook has taken on some of the toughest assignments on offer here, and has always risen to the challenge.  We are grateful to his devotion to the core principles of the WTO, and his willingness to speak truth to power in many different contexts.  This is no ordinary ambassador – thank you, Wayne, for your work here.

We wish Jamaica a successful Trade Policy Review.