The ongoing trade deficit problem for T&T and Jamaica
THE RECURRING challenges of a widening trade deficit for Jamaica with Trinidad and Tobago featured again in the Jamaican senate last Friday but climaxed with an understanding to pursue a non-confrontational strategy for reversal of this lingering negative trend.
For all their often feisty political quarrels, both government and opposition senators joined forces to echo dissatisfaction over the very significant trade balance, which currently stands at some BDS$2 billion in Trinidad and Tobago’s favour.
Senator Christopher Tufton of the opposition Jamaica Labour Party, mover of the relevant motion in favour of an International Monetary Fund (IMF)-influenced strategy for economic development with growth, was passionate in his quest for strong demands by Jamaica to arrest the widening negative trade with Trinidad and Tobago. He referenced growing criticisms also from significant sectors, among then Jamaican exporters.
However, a pleading intervention by Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator A. J. Nicholson, to “stop quarrelling” with Trinidad and Tobago and to focus more on “improving the standard of living of our people”, may well have influenced the senate’s non-antagonistic approach while settling for efforts designed to arrest the serious trade imbalance.
The time may well be overdue for a meeting of minds, the sooner the better, for informed, candid dialogue between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago to sensibly resolve the trade imbalance challenges, starting at ministerial level and subsequently, if necessary, at the level of heads of government.
Such an approach would reflect mature political behaviour by the governments of CARICOM’s two largest economies that, together, account for an estimated 60 per cent of the Community’s overall gross domestic product (GDP) and be very much related also to Trinidad and Tobago’s quite dominant intra-regional trade in petroleum products.
The significantly different primary bases of the economies of these two CARICOM partners, one fuelled largely by oil and natural gas, the other by tourism, are pretty well acknowledged. Both countries are also significant exporters of manufactured commodities, including food and beverages.
What they also share, and ought not to be de-emphasized by their detractors, is a commonality in commitment to the survival of our regional economic integration movement.
At the same time Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago cannot be unmindful that it is this level of commitment that also sustains unity and cooperation by Guyana, Barbados and other member states of the Eastern Caribbean that at times have valid reasons to express complaints and disappointments of their own.