Caribbean Net News | November 8, 2006
Implementing CARICOM-Canada Free Trade Area crucial, says Canadian High Commissioner
by Gordon French
Caribbean Net News Guyana Correspondent
GEORGETOWN, Guyana: Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Charles Court, has committed to fast-tracking negotiations for the establishment of a CARICOM-Canada Free Trade Area (FTA).
Discussions towards the negotiation of a possible Canada-CARICOM FTA started at the Canada-CARICOM Summit in 2001, held in Montego Bay, Jamaica.
Canadian and CARICOM officials have met on four occasions to identify areas that could be pursued in a possible future negotiation. The latest meeting was held in March last year in Barbados and no date has been set for another meeting.
"This process has not been receiving the type of attention it needs based on the economic success that an FTA would generate. Both sides in general accept that a free trade agreement will benefit the economies of both sides, but to have it implemented as soon as possible is crucial," Court stated.
He added that a free trade agreement with CARICOM would strengthen Canada’s trade and political ties with the region’s economies, and contribute to the shared goal of deepening economic integration within the Hemisphere. The region currently enjoys some trade advantages with Canada through the CARIBCAN agreement, under which exports from CARICOM members reach Canada, essentially duty-free.
Canada believes that the FTA arrangement is a stepping stone for the implementation of the FTA of the Americas.
"Some may argue that the present arrangement should remain in place but that does not cover as many sectors as a free trade arrangement would. What a free trade arrangement would cover is something that will have to be negotiated," Mr. Court stated.
According to the diplomat, Canada has sought to extend some of the benifits under the CARIBCAN arrangement which started in 1986.