Issues covered by the WTO’s committees and agreements


Jamaica: November 1998

“ Inflation had been significantly reduced and the economy had become more efficient and outward oriented. Members noted, however, that challenges remained, including high unemployment and a substantial internal debt...”

2 November 1998


The Trade Policy Review Body of the World Trade Organization (WTO) concluded its first review of Jamaica's trade policies on 29 and 30 October 1998. The text of the Chairperson's concluding remarks is attached as a summary of the salient points which emerged during the discussion. The review enables the TPRB to conduct a collective examination of the full range of trade policies and practices of each WTO member country at regular periodic intervals to monitor significant trends and developments which may have an impact on the global trading system.

The review is based on two reports which are prepared respectively by the WTO Secretariat and the government under review and which cover all aspects of the country's trade policies, including its domestic laws and regulations, the institutional framework, bilateral, regional and other preferential agreements, the wider economic needs and the external environment. A record of the discussion and the Chairperson's summing-up together with these two reports, will be published in due course as the complete trade policy review of Jamaica and will be available from the WTO Secretariat, Centre William Rappard, 154 rue de Lausanne, 1211 Geneva 21.

Since December 1989, the following reports have been completed: Argentina (1992), Australia (1989, 1994 & 1998), Austria (1992), Bangladesh (1992), Benin (1997), Bolivia (1993), Botswana (1998), Brazil (1992 & 1996), Cameroon (1995), Canada (1990, 1992, 1994 & 1996), Chile (1991 & 1997), Colombia (1990 & 1996), Costa Rica (1995), C˘te d'Ivoire (1995), Cyprus (1997), the Czech Republic (1996), the Dominican Republic (1996), Egypt (1992), El Salvador (1996), the European Communities (1991, 1993, 1995 & 1997), Fiji (1997), Finland (1992), Ghana (1992), Hong Kong (1990 & 1994), Hungary (1991 & 1998), Iceland (1994), India (1993 & 1998), Indonesia (1991 and 1994), Israel (1994), Jamaica (1998), Japan (1990, 1992, 1995 & 1998), Kenya (1993), Korea, Rep. of (1992 & 1996), Lesotho (1998), Macau (1994), Malaysia (1993 & 1997), Mauritius (1995), Mexico (1993 & 1997), Morocco (1989 & 1996), New Zealand (1990 & 1996), Namibia (1998), Nigeria (1991 & 1998), Norway (1991 & 1996), Pakistan (1995), Paraguay (1997), Peru (1994), the Philippines (1993), Poland (1993), Romania (1992), Senegal (1994), Singapore (1992 & 1996), Slovak Republic (1995), the Solomon Islands (1998), South Africa (1993 & 1998), Sri Lanka (1995), Swaziland (1998), Sweden (1990 & 1994), Switzerland (1991 & 1996), Thailand (1991 & 1995), Tunisia (1994), Turkey (1994 & 1998), the United States (1989, 1992, 1994 & 1996), Uganda (1995), Uruguay (1992), Venezuela (1996), Zambia (1996) and Zimbabwe (1994).

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The first Trade Policy Review of Jamaica was conducted by the TPR Body on 29-30 October 1998. These remarks, prepared on my own responsibility, are intended to summarize the main points of the discussion; they are not intended as a full report. Details of the discussion will be fully reflected in the minutes.

The discussion developed under three main themes: (i) economic environment; (ii) trade policy measures; and (iii) sectoral policies.

Economic environment

Members congratulated Jamaica on its structural reform, underpinned by prudent macroeconomic management. In consequence, inflation had been significantly reduced and the economy had become more efficient and outward oriented. Members noted, however, that challenges remained, including high unemployment and a substantial internal debt; in view of the large trade deficit, they also asked about the competitiveness of Jamaica's exports, particularly given rising unit labour costs and recent real appreciation of the currency. Members sought assurance on the Jamaican policy response, including with respect to the investment environment.

Members welcomed Jamaica's strong commitment to the multilateral trading system and stressed the view that Jamaica's growing regional links should continue to complement its contribution to the system. They asked about the coordination of Jamaica's trade policies with CARICOM and the effect of the erosion of preferences on Jamaica's exports; in this respect they inquired about efforts to diversify both Jamaica's export product mix and markets.

The representative of Jamaica reiterated his country's commitment to an open, multilateral trading system. He felt that the benefits of the system were not always equally distributed, which should be addressed, as otherwise it might be difficult to maintain wide-ranging support for it. With respect to regional trade policy, he indicated the steps taken by CARICOM to deepen economic integration, and noted that Jamaica was progressively increasing the coordination with CARICOM, with the goal of moving to a Single Market.

On the issues raised by Members, the representative of Jamaica said that government policy aimed at achieving macroeconomic stability including inflation control and reducing exchange rate volatility; given the high import content of Jamaican production and consumption he was not sure that export competitiveness would be improved by currency depreciation. With regard to diversifying export products and markets, a number of initiatives were being taken including niche market promotion and improved techniques for innovation and product development. He recognized the concerns raised regarding the build-up of internal imbalances; these would be addressed through continued use of disciplined macroeconomic policies, improved productivity and enhanced cooperation among social partners.

Trade policy measures

Members welcomed the many trade-liberalizing measures taken by Jamaica in recent years; these included a lowering of tariffs, an elimination of quantitative restrictions and a reduction in the scope of import licensing. These measures had been integral to the creation of a more market-oriented economy, and had also encompassed the removal of price controls, privatization and financial sector reform. In encouraging Jamaica to continue with these efforts, Members raised a number of questions particularly with respect to: high border charges, including additional duties; customs valuation; import and export licensing; anti-dumping and government procurement procedures; the updating of standards; and the system of incentives, especially subsidies and tax allowances. Questions were also posed on intellectual property rights and competition policy, as well as on Jamaica's efforts to amend domestic legislation to give effect to the WTO obligation.

In reply, the representative of Jamaica stated that his country would continue with trade-opening measures. Jamaica would move to Phase IV of the revised Common External Tariff (CET) and adopt the six-digit tariff structure HS96 in January 1999. Clarification was provided on the application of other levies and charges, including additional duties, on imports; there was no immediate plan to reduce them but taxation review was in progress to simplify and improve compliance. Jamaica's tariff schedule would be shortly submitted to the WTO Integrated Data Base. On customs valuation, he accepted that the publication of reference prices would improve transparency, and he clarified aspects of the Fair Competition Act.

Jamaica was actively working on amending its legislation and procedures in a number of areas, including TRIPS, anti-dumping, standards, government procurement and customs valuation. The representative of Jamaica stressed the need for technical assistance to strengthen the capacity of small trading partners to meet reporting obligations under the WTO and to fully exercise their rights.

Sectoral and structural issues

Members acknowledged the challenges faced by Jamaica as a small island economy and welcomed its efforts to encourage a more efficient sectoral allocation of resources. A number of questions arose, particularly with respect to agriculture, textiles and clothing, and services. On agriculture, Members asked about issues such as high tariffs, preferential interest-rate schemes and other subsidies, and efforts to increase the role of the private sector. With respect to textiles, some questions arose about the industry's cost structure, particularly with respect to labour, and about access to the U.S. market. On services, Members welcomed Jamaica's commitments in the GATS and encouraged a broadening of their scope, particularly in financial services. A number of questions were raised on specific issues, including about "exclusive rights" provisions in telecommunications and the MFN exemption in maritime transport.

The representative of Jamaica replied, that agricultural policies should reflect concerns about rural development, poverty alleviation and the building of competitiveness, as well as Jamaica's WTO commitments. Detailed information was provided regarding milk production programmes and state trading enterprises in the sector. He stressed that Jamaica did not use agricultural export subsidies. Regarding textiles, details were provided with respect to the Caribbean Basin Initiative preferential regime.

The Jamaican representative noted that his delegation would provide further written answers in some areas, including licensing, additional duties, financial services, telecommunications and tourism.


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In conclusion, Members expressed appreciation for Jamaica's active participation in, and contribution to the work of the WTO. It is also my sense that Members strongly welcomed the many steps that Jamaica has already taken in becoming a more open, outward-oriented economy that is integrated into the multilateral system; they acknowledged the challenges faced by Jamaica as a small economy. It is felt that a continuation of Jamaica's trade-opening efforts would consolidate the basis for steady, sustainable growth; in this respect, the support of Jamaica's trading partners will also be important.