Jamaica is on a roll. Long famous for its food, music, and fabulous beaches, everyone’s favorite Caribbean island has embarked on a major program designed to modernize key economic sectors and create a global logistics hub serving the U.S. Eastern Seaboard, the Caribbean, Central America and even Western Europe. Much of the initial investment is coming from China, but an essential factor for success will be integration into U.S. supply chains. This requires raising Jamaica`s profile among key decision-makers in the U.S. public and private sectors. To this end, Peninsula Press is working with Jamaican leaders to promote a high-level Round Table in Washington, DC, hosted by the influential Foreign Policy magazine and strategically timed for a month or so after the new U.S. administration takes office.

The Round table will coincide with a publication of a special report on Jamaica in Foreign Policy magazine.

Why a Washington Round Table?

Jamaica has been forging closer trade and investment links with China and other Asian economies. China, for example, has just completed a US$600 million cross-island highway and will promote development at selected sites along the route. It`s all part of a fundamental realignment and upgrading of the Jamaican economy, leveraging location, language and other advantages.

Logistics are central, because the enlarged Panama Canal and the rise of near-shoring will change how goods and industrial inputs are distributed internationally. Jamaica aims to be part of the emerging new structures – with particular reference to the eastern United States. As the new U.S. administration considers its trade policies and priorities in the context of the Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) and the reshaping of the European Union following the British referendum, Jamaica has a message that needs to be heard: the island hub can help to make U.S. trade and manufacturing more efficient and competitive.

Jamaica’s logistics revolution will be largely private-sector driven; it’s not looking for foreign aid or handouts. Rather, the island seeks to attract investors in a range of sectors where it offers exceptional advantages. But as the new U.S. administration takes up the reins, Jamaica needs to be “on the radar” for senior public- and private-sector decision-makers, ensuring that the country`s new opportunities and enhanced logistical capabilities are fully recognized. Jamaica must also capitalize on recent excellent progress with its economic adjustment program. In a June 2016 report, the International Monetary Fund said that “Jamaica’s implementation of the economic reform program supported by the Extended Fund Facility has been exceptional by international standards.” It went on to say that “Jamaica has made significant progress in restoring economic stability thanks to strong policies and program ownership.”

All this helps to create a favorable image at senior public and private levels, and is an important prerequisite for the success of wider investment promotion activities.

The Jamaica Round Table, an invitation-only event, will bring together approximately two dozen senior policy makers, business leaders and opinion formers for discussions with a group of Jamaican government ministers and business people. It will be hosted by David Rothkopf, editor and CEO of FOREIGN POLICY MAGAZINE, and followed by a cocktail and dinner. While discussion at such an event can be free-flowing and wide-ranging, an information package and introductory presentation will be prepared focusing on the themes listed below.

Same topics will be discussed in our complex and forward-looking special report on Jamaica for Foreign Policy, which will be of particular value for the country at this decisive moment.

How Jamaica will integrate with U.S. and regional supply chains

  • Logistics: Jamaica’s Global Logistics Hub Initiative is defined by the Ministry of Industry, Commerce and Agriculture as “a government-backed program to establish Jamaica as the premier logistics node within the Americas.” Kingston is one of the world’s largest natural harbors, with deep-water access. It was privatized last year under a 30-year concession to a consortium comprising Terminal Link of China and the French CMA CGM Group, with plans to boost annual container capacity to 3.6 million TEUs. Investments through the first half of the concession period are projected at just over US$500 million. There are also studies for an all-new US$1.5 billion China-financed deep-water port at Goat Island, just west of Kingston, provided environmental concerns can be satisfied. Other proposals include a commodities port at Cow Bay and dry dock facilities at Jackson Bay. Advantages include proximity to the eastern end of the Panama Canal and major east-west shipping lanes, plus direct connections to all regional ports. There are three international airports with direct flights to most major centers.
  • Integrated manufacturing: Jamaica is planning up to 16 Special Economic Zones (SEZ) including the 600 hectare (1,500 acre) Caymanas Economic Zone, adjacent to Kingston Harbor. Target sectors include manufacturing, agro-processing, logistics management, transshipment and dry-docking. Jampro, the government’s trade and investment promotion agency, sees opportunities in distribution services, consolidation/deconsolidation, storage, inventory management, shipment scheduling, order processing, product sub-assembly, packing and labeling, with advantages including swift delivery to final consumers, and substantial cost savings.
  • Business process outsourcing: Jamaica is a natural choice for BPO and associated ITC outsourcing such as call centers, given the time similarity to the North American market and the largest English-speaking population after the U.S. and Canada. Daryl Vaz, a government minister with responsibilities for economic growth and job creation, announced in June of 2016 the approval of three new BPO investments that could end up providing 12,000 jobs, including technical and graduate-level staff. Already some 32 companies offer BPO/ITC services in areas such as telecoms, banking, accounting, legal services, insurance, human resources and healthcare, Jampro said, citing the “neutral accent and close affinity to the North American culture” as additional advantages.
  • Tourism: Jamaica is already a top destination, with excellent hospitality infrastructure, so it might appear strange to be talking about investment promotion and enhanced integration with the U.S. sector. However, the North American tourism industry is being significantly impacted by the opening up of Cuba, meaning that competing Caribbean destinations must be pro-active to maintain market share. This is particularly critical for Jamaica, given that the two-million plus annual visitors (including 1.56 million cruise ship passengers in 2015) bring in over half of the country’s foreign exchange earnings and generate around one in four jobs. Jamaica recently changed the law to allow casino gambling; the first major projects are due to start building this year. Both are near Montego Bay. Harmony Cove is a US$1 billion phase-one investment for a 1,000-room ocean-front facility with golf course, possibly expanding in subsequent phases to 5,000 rooms, while the US$1.8 billion Celebration Jamaica project envisages a 2,000-room facility with a 1,200-seat theater. Jampro also sees opportunities in boutique hotels, entertainment and sports tourism, and of course eco-tourism.