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Calls for Trinidad and Tobago foreign trade minister to “step aside”

AJ Nicholson

From Caribbean360

KINGSTON, Jamaica, Tuesday June 11, 2013 – The Jamaica Manufacturers Association (JMA) says it has sought the intervention of Prime Minister Portia Simpson-Miller to help quell the controversy that has arisen as a result of the ongoing trade dispute between Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago.

JMA president Brian Pengelley, appearing on television here Tuesday, said that local manufacturers had asked Prime Minister Simpson-Miller to convene a meeting that should also be attended by her ministers responsible for regional trade.

He said this would facilitate an understanding of everyone’s respective roles, “what we can play, what should be the steps.”

The JMA has already called for the resignation of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister AJ Nicholson saying that statements he made had contradicted earlier statements by Industry, Investment and Commerce Minister Anthony Hylton, who had promised to take the trade issues as far as the Trinidad-based Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ).

The CCJ, established in 2001 to replace the London-based Privy Council as the region’s final court, also acts as an international tribunal interpreting the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas that governs the 15-member regional grouping.

“The confusion within the Government is unacceptable. One minister is saying one thing and another minister something else. What is really the position? Minister Nicholson needs to start singing a different tune, or step aside for someone who is a team player, understands issues and addresses them rather than wishing them away.”

Nicholson told legislators last week that the parliamentary opposition and other critics should end the bickering with Trinidad and Tobago over claims of unfair trade practices. He said the private sector should be focusing on large markets instead of complaining.

Opposition and private sector groups have in the past accused Port of Spain of breaching the Treaty of Chaguaramas. They have accused Trinidad and Tobago of providing subsidised fuel to its manufacturers, exporting goods to Jamaica which were not manufactured on the oil-rich twin island republic and benefiting under the Common External Tariff (CET) while erecting barriers to Jamaican goods.

The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade said there was no intent by Nicholson to downplay the challenges being experienced by Jamaican businesses in the region, as a result of the application of non-tariff barriers and other impediments which have prevented Jamaican goods from entering those markets.

“Neither can there be any doubt that our foreign minister is sensitive to these concerns, as he has been a staunch defender of the interests of the private sector in Jamaica,” the release stated, adding that the government is prepared to use its full resources to enforce CARICOM trade rules.

However, the JMA said that it was disturbed by what it described as the “careless” comment made by Nicholson in the Senate that “this thing about quarrelling with Trinidad every day must stop”.

“Minister Nicholson has either forgotten which team he is on or blatantly disregards the people he is supposed to represent,” the JMA added.

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