Prime Minister Andrew Holness has announced that he will be leaving on a visit to China early next month, to among other things, probe the possibilities of trade expansion with that Asian country.
“I will be going to China in early November to explore further investments and trade possibilities from the people of China,” Holness said.
He pointed out that over the nearly five decades of relationship between Jamaica and the communist Republic of China, investment has been robust, but trade has been woefully inadequate.
“The Chinese market is huge and so far we have done very well on the investment side of the relationship. What we haven’t done well on is the trade side of the relationship. Jamaica must find things to sell to China,” he remarked.
“We have such a robust and well-established Chinese community in Jamaica, right here in Montego Bay. We need to start to explore with them what are the areas in which we have competitive advantage and comparative advantage that we can produce here and send to China? You just want one product to take off in China, you know. Just one. And the balance of trade would just shift.”
Holness said bauxite is the major trade between Jamaica and China, but alluded to the recent temporary closure of the Jiquan Iron and Steel (Group) Company (JISCO)-Alpart operated alumina production plant at Nain, St Elizabeth, to facilitate rehabilitation and upgrade work.
In 2016, Chinese firm JISCO purchased 100 per cent of the 50-year-old Alumina Partners of Jamaica (ALPART) refinery at a cost of US$299 million.
“Right now the major product is bauxite and we all know what has happened with that. Again a symptom of not maintaining. The plant was there in mothball for many years, the plant has reached its useful life, you can’t keep operating that plant as it is..it is just unprofitable. So we understand, we understand and we are really hoping that it can be opened very quickly, but we need to find other things to trade,” he said.
“I know we are doing fairly well with seafood that we have reached a point with that that there are other things as well.”
Prime Minister Holness argued that “Jamaica is open for business for all countries of the world who want to come and invest”.
Apart from the US Commonwealth island of Puerto Rico, Jamaica ranks as the best economy in the Caribbean, when it comes to the ease of doing business, according to a recent World Bank report.
Jamaica has improved its ranking since the last report, improving from 75, but is still below its previous rank of 70 in 2017.
The results come from the World Bank and its just-published Ease of Doing Business Report for 2020, the 17th edition. The annual report looks at the business regulations in some 190 countries and the effects they have on business performance.
“The job of the Government is to create a level playing field with transparent rules that are enforced fairly and justly so that any country, anyone who wants to come and invest can come and invest in Jamaica. We are happy to see that our friends from China has taken an interest in the investment climate in Jamaica. We encourage other countries to come as well,” the prime minister said.
He was speaking at Wednesday’s official opening of the long-awaited ground-breaking ceremony for the construction of the US$43-milion Western Children and Adolescents Hospital on the grounds of the Cornwall Regional Hospital in Mount Salem, Montego Bay, St James.
The 220-bed, seven-story children and adolescents hospital is a gift to Jamaica from the Chinese Government.