My deepest sympathy goes out to the family on the passing of the tireless and forthright Bev Lopez. I knew her from the D&G days, to her own Kingston Brewing, and the JMA and P.S.O.J. and admired her as friendly, determined, and a Jamaican woman who was not afraid to speak her mind. May her soul rest in peace.
Also condolence to the family of Paul Hurlock, a musician and performer who made the music of Montego Bay come alive from the early 1960s, along with the late Billy Vernon and the Celestials; and as a one-man band. He will be missed, but his music and performances will live in our memories.
I have written my last few articles dealing with a new mindset for diplomacy, and an uneasy feeling about the Port of Kingston. Last week our Prime Minister announced the signing of several agreements with the Government of China, and I am anxious to hear the details of these new areas of cooperation, and what their possible implications may be for Jamaica and Jamaicans.
I am not against Chinese investments; however I am adamant that we must have a plan to compensate for the imbalance in size, money, and differing ambitions. After all, “Shrimpy” Clarke must have a plan before signing up for a title fight with George Foreman. That is purely commonsense.
The trade war between the USA and China is heating up. The importance of Jamaica and our strategic position cannot be overlooked. Made in Jamaica (and meeting value-added or transformative status) is a passport for trade in North America; Britain; and the EU. We must use this to our advantage or risk losing the moment and the entire game.
Just this week items such as aluminum wire and cable, steel pressure pipes, stainless steel kegs, and cast iron in-ground pipes and fittings from China were the subject of actions in the trade retaliation war. I would like to think that in the case of aluminum some of the raw material may originate in Jamaica. What an ironic situation; China gets charged for using Jamaican raw materials to supply the USA.
A joint venture; PPP; or a sale; requires a well-thought-out negotiation before signing, and it is that level of detail that will achieve success or failure. Although most negotiators will consider a win/win, they are certain that in any deal which one power may have an absolute advantage of resources, money, political influence, or military might, the win/lose has a good probability of being the reality.
I therefore ask us: What do we want from China? I will give you a few from my wish list in no particular order.
- If the Chinese get the Port of Kingston, then I want a commitment to the transfer of technology.
- I wish for an assembly operation for all port machinery including forklifts, cranes, and transport and trucking, and a guarantee of export to fulfil regional needs.
- I wish for a guaranteed increased usage of the port based on a negotiated agreement of ship calls and cargo movement.
- I wish for an associated development of the cargo airport at Vernam Field and a freight railway directly linked to the seaport.
- I wish for free return freight to China of all Jamaican exports.
- I wish for a guaranteed plan for Chinese cruise ships to bring Chinese tourists to Kingston, Ocho Rios, Montego Bay, and smaller vessels for Port Antonio.
- I wish for a joint venture to develop up-market coffee houses in China targeting the emerging wealthy and middle-class where coffee farmers can be shareholders, avoid the middleman, and benefit greatly from the improved prices and productivity.
- I wish the same for all tropical/exotic agricultural produce that may be suitable for Chinese consumers.
- I wish that Jamaican entertainers can perform in China without visa restrictions (pending security concerns).
- I wish for a moderate-sized Huawei assembly plant geared to the demand of the Caribbean, Central and South America.
That is my negotiation list, and I sincerely hope that our Government has its own list, and that a win/win can be a reality. If we got even 75% of this, then the cry of the people, the Economic Growth Council, the PIOJ, and the BOJ, would justifiably be “lick him Shrimpy”.