IANS | 7 August 2007
CARICOM, CentAm to discuss free trade agreement
Port of Spain, Aug 7: Countries from Central America and the Caribbean will come together to discuss a free trade agreement Wednesday in Trinidad and Tobago.
The head of state of the "C4" grouping - El Salvador, Guatemala, Nicaragua, Honduras and Panama - voiced interest in working out a trade agreement with the 15-strong Caribbean trade community CARICOM at meetings held in February and May.
Leroy Sheffer, of Panama’s Commerce and Industry Ministry, pointed out that the Caribbean is a valuable market for milk, cheese, beef, cardboard and tomatoes.
Panama’s exports to CARICOM grew from $8.5 million in 2003 to some $18.6 million in 2006, so a free trade accord will profit producers, exporters and services, Sheffer said.
The negotiators have already outlined the terms of the negotiations, so debates will focus on market accessibility and regulations.
Sonia Lainfiesta, foreign trade policy coordinator of Guatemala’s Economy Ministry and Central American Integration System (SICA), said that the Costa Rica-CARICOM Free Trade Agreement would be used as a reference point for the talks.