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Canada-CARICOM trade agreement ‘sideswiped by EPA’

Kaieteur News | December 6, 2008

Canada-CARICOM trade agreement ‘sideswiped by EPA’

Canadian High Commissioner, Charles Court, has said that the Canada-CARICOM Foreign Trade Agreement (FTA) process has been sideswiped by the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

Court was at the time addressing the Georgetown Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s annual Awards Dinner which was held at Le Meridien Pegasus, Wednesday evening.

According to Court, now that CARICOM has concluded negotiations with the European Union (EU) and signed the EPA, he hopes to begin formal negotiations as soon as possible toward a trade deal between Canada and CARICOM.

However, he congratulated CARICOM on the signing of the EPA.

He added that Canada is working to achieve trade agreements with many countries in the Americas.

He said that in addition to having Free Trade Agreements with the United States and Mexico (NAFTA), Chile and Costa Rica, Canada has signed an agreement with Peru, concluded negotiations with Colombia, and is engaged in talks with Panama, the CA4 countries, and the Dominican Republic.

According to him, the launch of Canada-CARICOM trade negotiations was announced by Prime Minister Harper during his visit to the region in July 2007, after several exploratory discussions were held between 2001 and 2005.

“While the first round of negotiations has not yet taken place, technical discussions are ongoing, and officials are working together to plan the first round of talks for early 2009.”

Court added that Canada is committed to concluding a mutually beneficial trade agreement with CARICOM.

He pointed out that a bilateral trade deal can offer new and exciting opportunities to Canadian and CARICOM citizens, and help modernise the trade and investment relationship.

“A bilateral trade deal would lock in the benefits of CARIBCAN, the program which allows the majority of Caribbean exports to enter Canada duty-free, but which will expire in December 2011.”

He noted that benefits of a bilateral trade deal between Canada and CARICOM include expanded opportunities for exporters of goods and services through the elimination or reduction of tariff barriers and the liberalisation of services sectors; enhanced security and predictability for investors; enhanced competitive position of businesses in the global marketplace; lower prices and improved choices for consumers; greater transparency in the regulatory process; promotion of good governance based on transparent trade and investment rules and review mechanisms allowing the public to raise concerns on a range of trade and investment issues, as well as about labour rights and environmental management.

“Canada is sympathetic to the needs of developing countries and will take into account the capacity constraints and vulnerabilities associated with small states throughout the negotiations.”

As well, he added, Canada knows that most CARICOM members are developing/middle-income countries, including many Small Island Developing States (SIDS) that are highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and heavily impacted by the recent increases in fuel and food prices.

External shocks, such as the end of preferential trade agreements and economic troubles in the United States (reducing tourism) exacerbate the impact of these challenges, Court said.

“In recognition of these challenges and developing long term solutions that will effectively and concretely address the problems and underlying causes, we want to define activities that will target to achieve results in three core pillars: security, democracy and prosperity.”

According to Court, Canada is working with the Caribbean states to develop capacity in these areas and address specific issues.

“Particularly, the government has devoted $600 million to a new CIDA programme for the region for ten years beginning in 2007. That programme is now under active development and announcements will be coming soon.”

 source: Kaieteur News