Associated Press, February 25, 2005
Caribbean and Mercosur Discuss Free Trade Agreement
PORT-OF-SPAIN, Trinidad (AP) — Caribbean and Mercosur officials held talks Friday about establishing a free trade agreement by the end of the year.
Officials provided few details about the proposed agreement between the 15-nation Caribbean Community and the Mercosur trade bloc, whose full members are Brazil, Argentina, Paraguay and Uruguay.
"Our hope is that Caricom and Mercosur would move quickly to conclude a free trade agreement by the end of 2005," said Ken Valley, Trinidad’s trade and industry minister.
Paraguayan Foreign Minister Leila Rachid de Cowles said the agreement would take into account "deferential treatment" necessary to protect weaker industries from a flood of competition.
The talks came as the Caribbean Community takes steps toward creating a regional single market modeled after the European Union. Barbados, Jamaica and Trinidad have passed the necessary legislation to join.
The negotiations also come as Mercosur is expanding. Venezuela, Colombia and Ecuador became associate members in December, joining Bolivia, Chile and Peru. Associate members do not take part in Mercosur’s most important negotiations and can choose whether or not to abide by its trade rules.