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Caricom to talk possible deal with US

Associated Press

April 07, 2006

Caricom to Talk Possible Deal With U.S.

GEORGETOWN, Guyana (AP) - Caribbean foreign ministers will discuss a possible free trade agreement with the U.S. when they meet next week with the U.S. trade representative, officials said Friday.

The 15-member Caribbean Community, or Caricom, will meet with U.S. Trade Representative Bob Portman on Wednesday. Caricom has said it intended to approach the U.S. for a free trade deal after Central American countries signed such a pact with the U.S. last year.

"We are still discussing it in Caricom and have not come to a decision as yet, but it will come up for discussions," said Colin Granderson, foreign affairs chief of the Guyana-based Caricom Secretariat. "The ministers are going to sound out the U.S. on this."

The Caribbean ministers will also likely discuss additional aid for the hurricane-prone islands and the Caribbean Basin Initiative, a preferential trade and aid plan provided by the U.S. since the 1980s that’s up for renewal before U.S. Congress, as well as stalled negotiations for the Free Trade Areas of the Americas — a proposed 34-nation bloc.

The U.S. is Caricom’s largest trading partner, with the latest figures showing that the U.S. exported US$5.5 billion (euro4.5 billion) worth of goods — mostly food and clothing — in 2003, while buying US$3.6 billion (euro2.9 billion) in products from the Caribbean, including petrol, natural gas, ethanol, food, leather and clothing.

 source: AP