Contributing Lawyers

Canada

Cyndee Todgham Cherniak

United States

Susan Kohn Ross

Australia

Andrew Hudson



Canada-CARICOM FTA Not Proceeding Quickly

On July 20, 2007, Prime Minister Harper announced that Canada would commence negotiations of a free trade agreement with the CARICOM countries (Antigua, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, Montserrat, St. Kitts, Nevis, Anguilla, St. Lucia, St. Vincent, Trinidad & Tobago). On October 18 2007, Canadian and CARICOM chief negotiators held the inaugural meeting of the Canada-CARICOM FTA negotiations in Jamaica. Canada has engaged in a consultation process with Canadian businesses on the scope of the free trade agreement.  The first round of talks had been scheduled to take place on February 4-8, 2008 - but did not occur as planned.

On February 11, 2008, the following article appeared in the Jamaica Gleaner concerning the Canada - CARICOM free trade agreement negotiations.

CARICOM free trade delays frustrate Canada

Canadian officials have expressed frustration over the delay in free trade talks with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

"There's a lot of members of CARICOM, and there's a lot of different interests," Canada's International Trade Minister , David Emerison, said Saturday. "So that's going to take some time."

The first round of talks between Canadian and CARICOM negotiators was scheduled for February 4-8, but was jettisoned. Both sides had met in October to iron out details, according to Canada's foreign policy newsletter, Embassy.

"While the European Commission has successfully completed an Economic Partnership Agreement with the 15-nation Caribbean Community, Canadian negotiators are having trouble getting free trade talks out of the gate," Embassy read.

Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced Canada's intention to pursue a free trade deal with CARICOM during his visit to the region last July.

Duty-free access

Emerson said while Canada already grants duty-free access to the vast majority of goods that Commonwealth Caribbean countries export to Canada, some CARICOM nations are "hesitant to open up their own markets to Canadian goods and feel they don't have anything to gain".

"We believe that free trade can play a powerful and positive role in the lives of nations - throughout the hemisphere and around the world," said Helena Guergis, Canada's secretary of state for foreign affairs and international trade, in a recent address in Barbados.

"Trade relationships are about more than dollars and cents," she added. "They're also about forging ties of friendship among nations, and about giving citizens the opportunity to create wealth, prosperity and better lives - not only for themselves and their families, but for their nations as well," Guergis continued.

Evadne Coye, Jamaica's high commissioner to Ottawa, said Canadian officials have "raised some concerns about the delay in the start-up of those negotiations," but that CARICOM members have a number of issues they have to wrap up before moving ahead.

She said the bloc has to clean up the text of the European Commission agreement to a point where all members agree.

"As you may imagine, our resources are not as large as those of Canada, so it is taking some time for them to do that," Coye added.

For more information about the Canada - CARICOM FTA discussions, please click on the following link - http://www.international.gc.ca/trade-agreements-accords-commerciaux/agr-acc/caricom.aspx?lang=en

 

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