T&T Chamber Helps Local Firms Boost Trade with Jamaica

Jamaican high commissioner to TT David Pendergast delivers his address at the TT Chamber of Commerce on new trade and investment opportunities.

Jamaica and TT have long had a productive trade relationship, and the TT Chamber of Industry and Commerce is trying to make that even stronger. The chamber hosted a seminar on Tuesday at its Westmoorings office, designed specifically to help local firms do business in Jamaica, ahead of a trade mission next month.

Jamaican High Commissioner David Prendergast said, “Jamaica is definitely turning around and the mission would provide an excellent opportunity for profitable dialogue and collaboration. Macroeconomic indicators have recorded five consecutive years of gross domestic product (GDP) growth and increased employment, with unemployment the lowest in 12 years.”

International credit ratings agency Moody’s has said the country is expected to enjoy one of its most productive years in its economic history. This seminar, and the ensuing trade mission, is aimed at capitalising on that and increasing trade between the two countries. TT has a significant trade surplus with Jamaica (see graph).

The mission, Prendergast said, would be an opportunity to present buyers and sellers from both countries to discuss investment opportunities and to better understand each other’s markets, establishing trade based on these trends.

Kameel Khan founder of Kamri Investments Ltd, left, Giselle Marfleet owner of ICSC Solutions and Jamaican High Commissioner to TT David Pendergast listen to an address by Vice President of the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce Michael McMorris via Skype on Tuesday.

“It is important for both sides to benefit from this mission. These are exciting times for Jamaica and trade and investment relations for both our countries,” he said.

Prendergast said consecutive quarters have recorded growth on average of 1.8 per cent and this is expected to continue throughout 2019, credited to recent developments in traditional sectors like aluminium mining, tourism and agriculture, as well as improvements in infrastructure.

He said Jamaica has become the second biggest recipient of foreign direct investment in Caricom after Bahamas, with US$888 million, and implored TT investors to participate.

Citing the two countries’ long history of trade, he said there was still room for development in small and medium-sized businesses as well as non-traditional sectors.

One of the participants, Kameel Khan, founder of Kamri Glass Ltd, recalled his own experiences doing business in Jamaica and urged first-time investors to take the opportunity to build relationships with customers, since this was more profitable in the long term.

Khan who visited Jamaica earlier in his career urged prospective investors to take the time to learn about the culture of the country in order to understand trends in the market to enhance their profit.

Chamber CEO Gabriel Faria also recounted his experiences in Jamaica working with SM Jaleel and remarked that in some cases, the Jamaican component of some businesses tended to be larger than those in their home countries. Part of Jamaica’s turnaround could be credited to collaborations between its government and private sector, he added.

“There is actually a private-sector office that operates outside the Office of the Prime Minister and they worked collaboratively to turn the economy around. All the macroeconomic data is telling us that Jamaica is growing, it is positive. There is a next wave of companies that are entering. This is the time to get there. I think every company needs to look at opportunities outside of Trinidad,” he said.

Faria said there were opportunities for TT businesses, not only for investment but also in tourism and secondary services, such as engineering, construction and manufacturing, as well as other service industries.