Regional countries step up consultations on CARICOM-Canada agreement

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – The Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN) at the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat as well as the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) are facilitating consultations in the sub-region on the negotiations between CARICOM and Canada for a new trade agreement.

The national consultations have already been held in Antigua and Barbuda and will begin in St. Kitts and Nevis on Thursday.

A CARICOM statement said that OTN director general Ambassador Gail Mathurin, as well as technical officials from the OTN, the OECS Secretariat and the governments are participating in the consultations that include “in-depth discussion on the proposed Agreement, with a focus on CARICOM’s and Canada’s negotiating proposals and draft text”.

CARICOM’s current trade and economic relations with Canada are governed by the 1979 CARICOM-Canada Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement and its protocols, including the CARICOM-Canada 1998 protocol on rum, and the CARIBCAN agreement, which is a non-reciprocal preferential trade agreement that grants unilateral duty free access to eligible goods from beneficiary countries in the English-speaking Caribbean.

“As a non-reciprocal unilateral preferential arrangement, CARIBCAN is incompatible with WTO (World Trade Organisation) rules and therefore requires a WTO waiver. That waiver is scheduled to expire in 2011,” the CARICOM statement said.

It said that on the other hand, the trade and development agreement between CARICOM and Canada will be compatible with WTO rules and will not require a waiver and “furthermore, it is anticipated that this agreement will provide CARICOM with broader and better preferential access to the Canadian market. “While CARIBCAN provides duty-free access for a range of CARICOM goods, it does not include services, which is becoming an increasingly important and valuable productive sector within CARICOM,” the statement said.

Dominica will be the other OECS member state where the consultations will be held on July 29 and 30.

“The primary purpose of these consultations will be to increase the awareness of stakeholders from the private and public sectors about the negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement and to seek stakeholder input into the development of regional negotiating positions,” the statement said, noting that the OECS Secretariat with the support of the Commonwealth Hubs and Spokes Project has already undertaken work in the preparation of initial offers for goods for individual OECS countries and a draft OECS harmonised services schedule.

“It is anticipated that the results from these meetings, as well as the results of other ongoing national consultation initiatives taking place across the region, will be used to help refine CARICOM’s negotiating proposals and draft text.”

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