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CAN | May 21, 2022

Canada broadening trade agenda to include Jamaica

/ Our Today

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The Canadian flag flies in front of the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada, March 22, 2017. (Photo: REUTERS/Chris Wattie/File)

Canada plans to include Jamaica in a broadening of its trade agenda, which will involve India and the Middle East and traditional trading partners such as America and the United Kingdom.

Trade Minister, Mary Ng, who is leading the charge, made a trip to Jamaica last month, which is indicative of the important trade with Jamaica will play in Canada’s broadened trade agenda.

Jamaica isn’t an economic powerhouse with a gross domestic product (GDP) in 2020 of US$13.8 billion, which is minuscule compared with the US$30 trillion annual GDP of the United States, Canada’s main trading partner.

However, Jamaica has strong cultural industries, namely music, food and sports, which is why Jamaican-Canadian billionaire, Michael Lee-Chin believes Ng was mandated by Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau to work Jamaica into her agenda to diversify Canada’s portfolio of trade partners.

Lee Chin, who is the chairman of Jamaica’s biggest banking group, NCB Financial Group told the Financial Post that, “What most people do, is they gravitate toward shiny penny. Instead of saying, ‘Hm, there’s a penny there that is a little bit dusty’…It doesn’t take much to dust it off to become shiny. It’s going from dusty to shiny in that process that you create a lot of wealth.”

Jamaican billionaire, Michael Lee-Chin. (Photo contributed)

Ng’s Caribbean visit

Ng visited the Caribbean last month to strengthen trade partnerships between Canada and the 15 member states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). It’s part of a broader effort by the Trudeau government to reduce Canada’s dependence on the United States, which has become a less reliable trading partner in recent years, as both Democratic and Republican lawmakers have developed protectionist streaks.

Trudeau pledged in 2018 to increase Canadian exports to countries other than the U.S. by 50 per cent by 2025. The Jamaican-Canadian trade relationship in particular can be traced back centuries, when Canada began exporting salted codfish to the island, a Jamaican staple colloquially known as “saltfish.” In return, Jamaica exported rum to Canada.

“We have had a very long and important trading relationship,” said Diane Edwards, president of the Jamaican Promotions Organization (JAMPRO), which helps international businesses set up in Jamaica, a process that can include due diligence, sourcing people and materials, and conducting environmental assessments.

On her arrival to the island, Canadian Minister of International Trade and Export Promotion, Mary Ng, speaks with Foreign Affairs Minister Kamina Johnson Smith on April 13, 2021. (Photo: Twitter @mary_ng)

The Caribbean is a region where Canada has abundant cultural ties, although not as many economic ones, considering the regions share a commercial history as points on the triangular trade routes that British merchants followed as they exploited the resources of the New World to power the Industrial Revolution.

In 2020, Jamaica supplied Canada with aluminum oxides, foods, beverages, and spirits totalling $84.4 million in exports, while Canada supplied meat products, pharmaceuticals, and electrical machinery and equipment, totalling $122.2 million.

The Canadian government has pegged produce and processed food as one of the most lucrative areas for Canadian businesses to invest in Jamaica; other sectors with promise include information and communications technologies, infrastructure and clean technology.

Canada also sends hundreds of thousands of visitors to Jamaica yearly, constituting the island’s second-largest source of tourists after the United States. Toronto-based Sunwing Airlines flies to Jamaica while  Royalton Luxury Resorts has three locations along the Jamaican coastline.

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