Jason Hall
Ambassador
Embassy of Jamaica in Mexico
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Jamaica Key Destination for Mexican Investment

By Alessa Flores | Fri, 11/13/2020 - 09:14

Q: What is the status of relations between Jamaica and Mexico?

A: Jamaica’s relationship with Mexico dates back to 1655 when under Spanish rule, Jamaica was governed from Mexico City by the then vice royal of Spain. Mexico had a consular post in Kingston as far back as 1880. Today, we enjoy over 54 years of continuous and robust diplomatic relations both at the bilateral and multilateral levels. 

At the bilateral level, relations have remained consistently strong, underpinned by the recently completed Ninth Binational Commission (first established in 1993) between our countries, signing a raft of agreements for technical, educational, cultural and scientific cooperation across multiple sectors, including agriculture, geospatial data management, disaster preparedness, crime prevention and maritime interdiction. In addition to these, we have various other agreements covering reciprocal removal of visa requirements for travel, double taxation, air services, and MOUs on cooperation in sport, multidestination tourism, and culture. This long-standing commitment to each other underscores the importance that we attach to our respective national development goals and our commitment to regional integration and cooperation. 

At the multilateral level, Jamaica recognizes and commends the strength of Mexican diplomacy and has worked tirelessly alongside Mexico within various multilateral mechanisms, such as CELAC, MACRI, OAS and the UN, to play a highly constructive and balanced role in the world, giving voice to small, developing states on critical economic, social and environmental issues.   

Q: Both countries signed the Memorandum of Understanding between the Mexican Petroleum Institute (IMP) and PetroJam to identify business opportunities. What opportunities has Jamaica detected in Mexico in the energy field and how can interested Mexican companies participate in these opportunities?

A: Energy security is a critical and key element of our national development goals. Recently, oil was discovered in Jamaican waters and this presents an opportunity for the petroleum sector. Other opportunities in the sector include refinery operations and bunkering of ships. It is important to note that given Jamaica’s strategic geographic location, it has a very significant maritime sector with a high level of activity both in cruise and commercial shipping. Notwithstanding the discovery of oil deposits, Jamaica is also looking to diversify its energy mix to incorporate renewable energy sources such as solar, wind, hydro, biofuel and waste to energy, and further opportunities abound in this regard. 

It is important for me to also mention other key sectors in Jamaica: Agriculture, Mining, Transport/logistics, ICT, and Tourism. Jamaica is likely the first true tourist destination in the world. Tourism is a very important sector given the volume of earnings, over US$3.5 billion per annum with over 5 million tourists. The industry employs approximately 25 percent of the working population directly and indirectly with a multiplier effect for the agriculture, transportation, restaurant and manufacturing sectors. Globally, Jamaica is recognized as the leading wedding/honeymoon destination, and also boasts best cruise port by the World Travel Awards for 10 years consecutively, among various other accolades, all of which have fueled record growth and significant expansion in room and airlift capacity on the island.

Q: How has international trade and investment between Jamaica and Mexico behaved during 2019 and 2020? What are Jamaica's expectations for trade with Mexico in the coming years?

A: Mexico and Jamaica have enjoyed a long-standing and vibrant trade relationship and recent years have seen a significant increase in Mexican direct investment in Jamaica in key sectors, such as transportation, infrastructure, mining, manufacturing and tourism, exceeding US$1.5 billion. The combination of our strategic geographic location, first-class technology infrastructure, promising economic outlook (positive overall growth, strong competitiveness indexes, reduction in unemployment, reduction in debt to GDP ratio from 140 percent to 96 percent, and a strong, globally recognized brand, has made Jamaica a key destination for Mexican investment. Interestingly, in 2015 Jamaica boasted the leading stock market in the world, evidenced by a 233 percent rally. Trade, though largely in Mexico’s favor, has been equally robust.  The adverse effects of COVID-19 at the start of 2020 and felt around the world has had a significant impact on our key sectors, especially tourism. The industry reopened in August and must be commended for the hard work that has gone into ensuring that our visitors are safe and healthy. We expect to establish direct air and sea connectivity between our countries to further boost trade and tourism.

Q: What projects or initiatives does Jamaica have in mind to encourage tourism between the two countries?

A: There are two principal areas of focus in this regard: awareness generation and establishment of a direct flight. Despite our long, common history and the popularity of the word “Jamaica,” specifically Agua de Jamaica, in Mexico, very little is known about Jamaica the country here. The role of the embassy has been to create and facilitate cultural and business interchanges that promote our key messages: 1. That Jamaica is open for business with tremendous opportunities. 2. That our culture, which created our Reggae music, our food, our positive attitude and prowess on many a world stage, is something that you can come and experience first-hand in a remarkably diverse and beautiful setting. Our intention is to create awareness through delivery of content, both virtually and where possible, live and direct. To this end, we will facilitate cultural exchanges, dance expositions, art exhibitions, film festivals, lecture series, gastronomic events, sporting events and music festivals and shows. It is my goal to have the largest Reggae festival in the world right here in Mexico.

Q: What effect does the strengthening of the relationship between Mexico and Jamaica have on Latin America and the Caribbean?

A: Mexico plays an extremely important role in the region as well as the world. Just as Mexico is a bridge from North to South America or from the Atlantic to the Pacific, Jamaica is a bridge to the Caribbean. Strengthening the relationship between Mexico and Jamaica serves to enhance the integration of the region. Mexican investment in the region builds capacity for tourism and for trade, both of which increase employment and drive economic growth and development, it is a win-win scenario or, as I like to call it, “a Wincentive.” Additionally, stronger ties lead to more effective consensus, which is critical in countering geopolitical instability that can be a very disruptive factor. 

Q: What are the trade priorities for Jamaica with Mexico in the coming years?

A: Overcoming COVID-19 is a universal priority, particularly rebuilding all that has been severely impacted by the pandemic. This is an effort that is best handled through collaboration and cooperation. Trade will be an important element and the priorities will be to continue to build and strengthen relations across multiple sectors, particularly tourism, agriculture, technology, manufacturing, energy and logistics. We will focus on:

  • facilitating regional integration trade initiatives; 
  • establishing direct air and sea connectivity; 
  • facilitating further cross investment, both inward and outward;
  •  establishing Jamaica as a key destination for Mexicans to visit and do business; 
  • introducing other high-value, low-volume, uniquely Jamaican products into the Mexican market, such as rum, Blue Mountain coffee, nutraceuticals and other wellness products. 

Jamaica will continue to be a key destination for Mexican investment and an important partner in bilateral and multilateral affairs and it is the mission’s objective to continuously seek ways and means to further strengthen ties and increase the scope of activities.

Photo by:   Jason Hall
Alessa Flores Alessa Flores Senior Journalist and Industry Analyst