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Elizabeth Morgan | Trade critical to achieving UN Goals

Published:Wednesday | June 20, 2018 | 12:00 AM

In September 2015, member states of the United Nations (UN) adopted the Agenda 2030 on Sustainable Development, which has 17 goals for sustainable development (SDGs) to be achieved by 2030.

Nine of the SDGs have a trade focus. Importantly, Goal 17 states that critical means of implementing the other 16 goals are earnings from foreign trade and development financing (aid).

Development partners are now focused on the implementation of the SDGs and have made it clear that these goals will be the target of their development financing. The EU has said that, for them, the SDGs will be the foundation of the ACP-EU post-Cotonou agreement. It was no coincidence that the themes of the recent G7 Summit reflected the SDGs.

The United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD) states that trade is recognised as the engine for inclusive economic growth and poverty reduction. Thus, both UNCTAD and the World Trade Organization (WTO) have important roles to play in effecting the objectives of Goal 17.

For small developing countries like Jamaica, which have open economies, trade in goods and services is a principal source of income, jobs and growth. On openness, Jamaica's trade-to-GDP ratio is over 70 per cent. Jamaica is involved in the WTO, CARICOM and various bilateral trade agreements.


Uncertainties in global trade


The state of the trade environment is important to Jamaica. It is the assessment that the 2000-2015 Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) were not achieved because of failings in global trade. It is feared that continued uncertainties in global trade could thwart progress in the UN SDGs.

Jamaica's imports of goods continue to far outstrip exports, and even though there is a surplus on services (mainly from tourism), this surplus has not eased the deficit on goods. To register sustained, robust growth, Jamaica has to be actively engaged in international trade.

Implementing the SDGs in Jamaica depends on the expansion in trade and achieving consistent positive growth. The country, now designated a middle-income economy, cannot rely on development financing. It also cannot primarily rely on economic activities at the domestic level.

Jamaica's public and private sectors must focus on strengthening the trade regime to improve utilisation of its trade agreements; accelerate integration into global value chains; attract investments to increase production, including through value added; upgrade its infrastructure; and promote innovation.

Jamaica will be seeking to do this in a most challenging trade environment. The WTO Doha Round has not materialised to produce the benefits envisaged for developing countries. There are concerns about the strength and durability of the multilateral trading system.

Currently, with US trade policy vacillating, there is serious threat of a trade war encouraging resort to protectionism and stifling trade flows. Concern remains about de-risking by correspondent banks. There is still wariness in the private sector of trade with countries in Latin America. Brexit has led to a separate approach to the UK and a need to refocus trade within the EU27. There is need for a discussion about the feasibility of expanding trade with the Commonwealth.

At the regional level, there are concerns about the sustainability of the CSME. At the national level, Jamaica needs to improve its production infrastructure and its trade regime, including its regimes for standards and intellectual property rights, particularly adopting a new patents and designs bill to promote innovation. Overall, the country needs to expand production of goods and services for export.

Jamaica is now preparing its progress report on SDG implementation for the UN High Level Political Forum on Sustainable Development which is to be held in New York, July 9-18. For the UN SDGs to be successfully implemented by 2030, the public and private sectors must be focusing on Goals 8 and 17, and specifically on trade, expanding exports. The road map ought to directly address trade. The UN SDGs should be on the trade agenda at both the national and regional levels.

- Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade and international politics. Email feedback to