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At the recent Caribbean Community (CARICOM) heads of government meeting in Saint Lucia, Barbados Prime Minister Freundel Stuart, expressed optimism that Canada and the Caribbean Community could agree to a free trade agreement to replace the CARIBCAN preferential trade programme with Canada before the arrangement expires at the end of the year.
Stuart announced that CARICOM leaders are reviewing a report that was submitted by the Jamaican Prime Minister Portia Simpson as head of the Prime Ministerial Sub-Committee on External Trade Negotiations, which looks at how to resolve outstanding areas of disagreement with Canadian negotiators.
Stuart explained that there were a number of issues that were dividing CARICOM and Canada in relation to development, matters related to labour and the environment, and "what should and what should not go into the agreement between CARICOM and Canada".
"At the summit of the Americas, we met with the Prime Minister of Canada [Stephen Harper] and we discussed some of these issues. When the Governor-General of Canada [David Johnston] visited Barbados recently, I discussed the issues with him as well. But, we are optimistic that we can get an agreement before the existing one expires and there will be a seamless transition to the new agreement. In fact, a fourth round of negotiations is to take place sometime this month, and we expect that whatever concessions have to be made on both sides will be made, so that we can secure a successor agreement to the existing one."
Securing a new trade agreement with Canada that includes developmental assistance should go a long way towards boosting economic growth in the region, he said.
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