CARICOM-Canada negotiation drags on
Gary Spaulding, Senior Gleaner Writer
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade A.J. Nicholson has indicated that the June deadline for a trade and development agreement between CARICOM and Canada has again been pushed back as regional states are in need of additional time to review fresh proposals that have been introduced to the talks.
Nicholson told The Gleaner that CARICOM needed more time to examine in substantive detail proposals contained in the Agreement in Principle, some of which required approval at the highest levels.
"In addition, the region wanted to submit additional proposals to ensure that it would be concluding an agreement that can be justified to its constituents," said Nicholson.
Canada and CARICOM have been discussing the trade and development agreement, which should have concluded in 2011, since 2009.
Canada and the region had a one-way, non-reciprocal agreement that expired in December. Under the arrangement, CARICOM countries received preferential treatment such as duty- free access to the Canadian market.
Ed Bartlett, the opposition spokesman on foreign affairs, told The Gleaner yesterday that Nicholson needs to tell the nation "what is the currents status of market access for Jamaican goods, except rum, which is governed by a different arrangement".
"Do we still have the non-reciprocal arrangements in place? The minister also needs to tell us what is the attitude of the WTO, as well as Canada, to any further request for any additional reprieve and whether Canada's preoccupation with Trans Pacific Partnership discussions and other multilateral engagements will accommodate a continuation of discussion anytime soon," Bartlett said.
Nicholson said heads of government of CARICOM discussed, as a matter of priority, the state of play of the negotiations at their annual conference, which was held in Antigua and Barbuda in July.
"At that meeting, heads reiterated their commitment to concluding an agreement that was mutually beneficial to both parties, and, in this context, agreed to engage with Canada at the highest political level," said Nicholson.
This, he added, was in keeping with the mandate of heads of government. Engagement at the highest political level has been set in train.
Earlier this year, Nicholson indicated that CARICOM was unwilling to budge from its positions that tariff liberalisation was not sufficient consideration, and there was need for Canada to provide greater levels of development support from the North American country.