Jamaica is attractive to U.S. exporters due to its:
- Geographic proximity
- Excellent air and sea logistics with the U.S.
- Underwater communications cable links with the United States and the rest of the world
- Large English-speaking market
- Strong commercial and cultural affinity to North America
- Stable democracy
- Improving business climate as reflected in the World Bank 2015 Doing Business Report
Historically, Jamaica has imported more than it exports and more than it earns from tourism.The gap is made up by foreign investment and borrowing, creating a debt crisis. This debt was restructured in 2010 and has shown slight improvement
In 2014, Jamaica imported $5.8 billion in goods. A large portion of these goods are imported from the U.S. ($2.2 billion in 2014) and pass through Miami.
Jamaica mainly imports:
- Refined petroleum ($1.2 billion)
- Crude petroleum ($598 million)
- Autos ($165 million)
- Packaged pharmaceuticals ($121 million)
- Electronic appliances
As of 2015, we have seen a steep decline in Jamaican imports. This includes a 38% drop in oil imports, which reflects both lower oil prices and decreased trade volume. The country has made a significant push to decrease its reliance on oil and to harness green energy sources such as solar and wind power. Liquid natural gas could also grow in importantance as a fuel source.
Other sectors with good prospects for U.S. exporters include:
- Agricultural products (wheat, fruits such as apples, and vegetables such as spinach)
- Machinery and transportation equipment
- Products associated with highway expansion, hotel and housing construction
- Tourism sector suppplies
- Business process outsourcing (BPO)
The Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI) and the CBI Economic Recovery Partnership provide preferential duty-free access to the U.S. market for most types of Jamaican goods.
Selling In Jamaica
Trade regulations have loosened, making it easier to do business in Jamaica. Goods certified to be of CARICOM (Caribbean Common Market) origin enjoy advantages including no duty or sales tax.
- These and other goods may be subject to a 16.5% General Consumption Tax (GCT) or sales tax in Jamaica. For more information visit www.caricom.org
- Imports have a Customs User Fee and a Standards Compliance Fee (SCF). The SCF is 0.3% of the CIF value of the import and is collected on behalf of the Jamaica Bureau of Standards.
- Many items (such as motor vehicles and refined petroleum products) are subject to special taxes.
- GCT is also imposed on imports, but is generally passed on to the final consumer.
Theft and institutionalized corruption are major challenges to doing business in Jamaica. The court system is backlogged, making redress difficult.
Agents and Distributors
U.S. companies typically use agents or distributors to enter the Jamaican market. There are no local laws that govern the terms of an agent/distributor. You must create your own business contract. The American Chamber of Commerce of Jamaica, the U.S. Department of Commerce (headquartered in Santo Domingo, Dominican Republic), and the Jamaican Chamber of Commerce are some organizations that assist with finding local partners.
Distribution is done through importers, distributors, and agent representatives. Machinery and equipment is usually imported directly by the end-user. Most goods enter the port at Kingston and then travel by road. Air freight is also available via Miami.
It is extremely important to conduct due diligence on a potential agent or distributor. Contracts are binding and litigation is both slow and expensive.