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Rowley: Trade agreement with Canada next

Trinidad and Tobago Express

Rowley: Trade agreement with Canada next

By Kristy Ramnarine

20 March 2008

A trade agreement with Canada is the next item on the agenda for the Caribbean Community (Caricom).

It comes on the heels of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean Community (Caricom) Governments and the European Union, which will be signed on June 30.

Trade and Industry Minister Dr Keith Rowley made the disclosure during a recent news conference at the Finance Ministry.

"Caricom Heads of Government have agreed, much to Trinidad and Tobago’s approval, that our next trading agreement will be with Canada," he said.

"The Caricom Heads have instructed the Secretariat to move forward and indicate to the Canadians that we are ready to begin negotiations with Canada."

Canada is already a trading partner of Trinidad and Tobago-which, at present, controls 80 per cent of trade in the region-but not to the level of potential, according to Rowley.

"We need to put new arrangements in place to stimulate that trade," he added.

As for the EPA, the initial April 1 deadline could not have been met because of several reasons. However, the agreement document is completed.

"The final document now exists, it is about two inches thick. It has gone through a considerable-what we call-the legal scrub," Rowley said.

"A new date has been proposed and the relevant letters will be exchanged between the EU and Caricom, pushing the date down a few weeks to June 30."

He said it is in Caricom’s interest to sign the EPA as soon as possible.

"I would tell you that we here at Caricom had to complete these negotiations by December 31, 2007," he explained.

"Failing which our produce would have been subjected to a general tariff arrangement, which would have been disadvantageous to us.

"The EU has allowed us to trade on more favourable terms in the intervening period as we head towards signing this document."

He added, "Already, certain countries from other trading blocs have challenged the EU as to how come they could allow Caricom to be existing with these benefits, when these documents have not been signed."