Jamaica Gleaner | September 30, 2009
BARBADOS - Former PM urges CARICOM to strike better deals with Canada
Barbados (CMC): Former Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur has cautioned Caribbean Comm-unity (CARICOM) governments that any trade and economic agreement reached with Canada must be "better than what we got from Europe".
The European Union (EU) and CARIFORUM, the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic, signed an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in October last year aimed at strengthening ties between the two regions.
At the centre of the agreement is the creation of an integrated regional market in the Caribbean. The EPA removes all tariffs and quotas on Caribbean exports to the EU immediately, with the only exception being sugar and rice, which will be liberalised over short periods.
The EU has also agreed to open up new markets for Caribbean companies and professionals to offer services in the EU while the Caribbean countries will gradually open up their markets over a 25-year period.
CARICOM countries are soon to begin negotiations with Canada on a new trade pact. Arthur, in an address to a constituency meeting of the main opposition Barbados Labour Party (BLP) said that if the "Caribbean is going to negotiate a new relationship with Canada, then it has to be clear, that any new agreement has to be as good as, or better than, what we got from Europe.
The former prime minister said that Canada would not be willing to open up all its markets to the Caribbean.
Arthur was also critical of regional governments that he said had not fully utilised the three-year grace period under the EPA nor have they indicated how they intend to use the €165 million (US$241.6 million) under the European Development Fund regional programme for the Caribbean.
"There needs to be a full discussion across the Caribbean on how we are gearing ourselves to take advantage of the EPA and how have we used the grace period of three years," said Arthur.
"How we have taken those chapters in the EPA that provide this money for a region that is short of resources now, and use those resources in a recession to restructure industry, so when the recession ends people would have geared themselves for a new dispensation," he further argued.