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Canada to scrutinize Caribbean labor, environment standards

Agence France Presse | 8 June 2010

Canada to scrutinize Caribbean labor, environment standards

GEORGETOWN — A planned trade deal between Canada and the 15-nation Caribbean Community (Caricom) will increase scrutiny on the organization’s enforcement of labor and environmental laws, Canada said Tuesday.

Canada’s diplomatic representative to Caricom, Francois Montour, said his country’s parliamentarians require that all trade agreements with blocs and other countries require evidence of respect for labor and environmental laws and polices.

Montour said that before the two sides conclude the new Canada-Caribbean Free Trade Agreement — the successor to the 20-year old Caribbean Canada (CaribCan) pact — they would have to agree to an evaluation and monitoring of labor and environmental laws.

Talks are aimed at reaching an agreement before a World Trade Organization waiver for Caribbean countries expires at the end of next year.

"Canada will not be coming here with a special unit to look at how the country implements their own laws; it’s going to be a concerted and cooperative effort between the member states and the signatories to the agreements and Canada so it will be done jointly," he told a news briefing at the Guyana-based Caricom headquarters.

Workers across the Caribbean generally enjoy the legal right to join labor unions of their choice, although many of the groups are openly aligned to political parties.

In some cases, wages are far lower in the Caribbean compared to those in developed nations for similar types of jobs.

Environmental impact assessments are now routine requirements in many Caribbean countries, particularly for extractive industries like gold, diamond, bauxite, forestry and the construction of beach-side properties mainly for tourism.

The existing CaribCan trade agreement ends next year when the current five-year WTO waiver for the Caribbean countries’ tariff regime expires on December 31, 2011.

The new trade agreement will include new language on domestic regulation, legal and institutional issues and dispute settlement as well as the entry of service-providers and sectors for liberalization.

 source: AFP