New free trade talks to start later this year

Jamaica Gleaner, Jamaica

New free trade talks to start later this year

21 July 2007

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC): The Caribbean’s chief trade negotiator says discussions on a draft for a new free trade agreement between Canada and the 15-member Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will begin later this year.

Director General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery, Ambassador Richard Bernal, told the Caribbean Media Corporation that the talks would coincide with the end of the region’s negotiations with the European Union (EU) for a new Economic Partnership Agreement.

On Thursday, visiting Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the plan for a new economic partnership with CARICOM.

Bernal said thatthe schedule calls for completion of those (EU) negotiations by the end of this year “and we anticipate starting the negotiations with Canada later this year, so we are synchronising the two arrangements”.

Vital pact

He said the soon-to-be-drafted pact is vital because Canada is an important trading partner, and that over the last 100 years, it has also been “an empathetic development partner with the Caribbean”.

“We expect that in this agreement we will be trying to forge the type of arrangement that can promote economic development and structural diversification of CARICOM economies.

“We expect the traditional friendship and the special treatment which Canada has extended to us to continue to be the foundation of this new arrangement.”

The Canadian Prime Minister had told reporters earlier that his country had neglected the Caribbean, but his government was recommitted to deeper economic accord.

He said that the partnership would centre on a trade agreement and would take account of the particular circumstances of the region’s smaller states.

Harper said the effort would see his country - one of the region’s main trading partners - contributing towards strengthening the transition of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy “by delivering assistance for effective implementation, for the building of internal trade and for the negotiation and implementation of trade agreements”.

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