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Regional private sector wants good Canada-Carib trade agreement

Published:Wednesday | June 18, 2014 | 12:00 AM


The Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) is calling on Caribbean Community (CARICOM) trade negotiators "to stand firm" and leverage the good relationship Canada has had with the Caribbean to secure a fairer free trade agreement.

In a statement, the CAIC said with the possible concluding rounds for a Canada-Caribbean trade agreement taking place in Barbados this week, it was cautioning against accepting a "watered-down agreement", which would not be beneficial to either party and, worse yet, the Caribbean private sector.

The regional private sector group said, based on consultation with its Caribbean private sector stakeholders, CAIC has identified six areas of concern with the ongoing negotiations including the impact that the status of these negotiations would have on the CARICOM private sector in the event that the trend of these negotiations continue.

The CAIC said it is also concerned about the impending withdrawal of the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN) without the enactment of the CARICOM-Canada free trade agreement and the severe impact on Caribbean export items such as rum, tapia, ground provisions, fruits, vegetables and other food products.

It said there were also areas Canada is interested in receiving greater market access to, based on its demonstrable export capacity such as dairy industry, poultry, non-alcoholic beverages, sausages and apparel.

In addition, the CAIC has raised concerns about the removal of sensitive items of interest to Canada on the basis of reciprocation as well as insufficient and, therefore, ineffective mechanisms to facilitate CARICOM suppliers of trade in services.

The CAIC said it was also concerned regarding a desire to reengage the Canadian private sector that allows integration at the provincial level.

Negotiations between Canada and CARICOM for a new trade agreement began in 2009 to replace the current non-reciprocal CARIBCAN, the World Trade Organization (WTO) waiver which allows Canada to grant non-reciprocal preferences due to expire on December 31, 2014 and the 1998 CARICOM-Canada Protocol on Rum.

The trade agreement includes market access for goods, cross border trade in services, investment, temporary entry, labour, rules of origin, information and communications technologies, customs procedures, competition, monopolies and state enterprises.

The CAIC said the ongoing negotiations between CARICOM and Canada are heavily vested on Canada's side.

"These goods, while increasing the variety available to the region and the competitiveness, it can have devastating effects for the territories whose livelihood will be affected by the import of these goods from Canada," CAIC said.

It noted, for example, that the Caribbean may soon see the importation of canned saltfish to replace the 'buljol' prepared locally.

"The success of sardines from the Canadian market is only too well known", the CAIC said, noting also that the trade in services discussion has been insufficient to allow for meaningful mechanisms to be put in place.

"Traditionally, the Caribbean region has been portrayed to be market leaders in sun, sand and sea, and despite the historical offering of agricultural products, the Caribbean Community is rich in human resources and professional services," it said.