CARICOM/Canada Trade negotiations suspended

The Canadian Government has taken the decision to suspend negotiations with the 15-member states Caribbean Community (CARICOM) on a new CARICOM-Canada free trade agreement.

This disclosure was made by Grenada’s Trade Minister, Oliver Joseph during a presentation made to the Lower House of Parliament on May 29.

“We received a letter from the Minister of Trade of Canada, indicating the suspension of negotiations, Minister Joseph told the sitting held at the Grenada Trade Centre, Morne Rouge, Grand Anse, St. George.

The CARICOM-Canada negotiations have been ongoing for the last five years.

According to Minister Joseph, the Canadians have adopted the position that while CARICOM members are interested in a free trade agreement, they still want “to protect almost all the sectors.”

He said the Canadian government has indicated that as far as it is concerned the negotiating mandate has come to an end and Ottawa is “not prepared to continue with negotiations…unless CARICOM can come up with an ambitious liberalisation target for private and service liberalization.”

Minister Joseph, who also holds responsibility for Economic Development, Planning, Trade, Cooperatives and International Business pointed to Grenada’s active participation in the now suspended dialogue, noting the role of local Economist, Dr. Patrick Antoine, who led the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States (OECS) in the dialogue.

He bemoaned the fact that CARICOM’s proposal to Canada was not well accepted, saying that ,”it is rather unfortunate that the negotiations had to be suspended.”

The Canada-CARICOM free trade agreement was initially announced on July 1, 2007 with seven rounds of negotiations taking place.

Minister Joseph announced that following Canada’s decision to suspend negotiations on the agreement, the CARICOM Secretariat convened a Special Meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) on May 28 via video-conferencing, and it was agreed that the region should try “to re-engage Canada to see what sort of liberalisation can be made.”

Meanwhile, Canada has moved ahead to seek a new waiver at the World Trade Organisation (WTO) of the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) arrangements.

The agreement, which was established by the Parliament of Canada and became effective in 1986, seeks to promote trade, investment and provide industrial cooperation through the preferential access of duty-free goods from the countries of the Commonwealth-Caribbean to the Canadian market.

It allowed for duty free access of goods between the Commonwealth Caribbean and Canada.

WTO’s approval of CARIBCAN came to an end in 2011.

According to information posted on CARICOM’s website, the Secretariat said it looks forward to the early approval of the agreement, which will ensure that existing CARICOM trade with Canada will continue without disruption.

The Foreign Affairs, Trade and Development Canada has said that “Canada values its relationship with CARICOM and with each CARICOM Member State and attaches great importance to our commercial relations.”

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