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Canada May Re-Start FTA Negotiations With CARICOM

by Mike Godfrey, for, New York

10 November 2006

With the WTO's Doha Round becalmed,'bilaterals' are the name of the game for free trade, and the latest proposed agreement to be dusted off is the Canada-CARICOM Free Trade Area.

Talk of a possible FTA with Canada began in 2001 at the Sixth Canada-CARICOM summit. Then in 2005, the proposal took clearer form after Canada conducted a review of its bilateral trade initiatives. It was expected that negotiations would be launched in the second quarter of 2005, but perhaps because of the US-inspired Free Trade Area of the Americas, which would subsume all local, regional FTAs, they didn't go forward.

Now that the FTAA in its turn has run into difficulties, CARICOM is pursuing separate FTAs with the US and Canada. This week, reports Craibbean Net News, Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana and the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), Charles Court, committed to fast-tracking negotiations for the establishment of a CARICOM-Canada FTA.

"This process has not been receiving the type of attention it needs based on the economic success that an FTA would generate. Both sides in general accept that a free trade agreement will benefit the economies of both sides, but to have it implemented as soon as possible is crucial," Court stated.

There is an existing, limited CARIBCAN agreement, applying to certain exports from CARICOM members, dating from 1986, which Court believes should be extended.

2006 has seen substantial progress within CARICOM itself towards the creation of a unified free trade area. Barbados, Belize, Guyana, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago launched the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME) in mid-year, while the OECS states, including Anguilla, Antigua and Barbuda, BVI, Dominica, Grenada, Montserrat, St Lucia, St Kitts and Nevis and St Vincent and the Grenadines signaled their intention to form their own economic union, as well as committing to membership of the CSME. In July, Chief Minister of the British Virgin Islands, Dr Orlando Smith, revealed that the territory's government is considering its future participation in the CSME.

CARICOM negotiations with the USA for a free-trade area are also alive and kicking, with a number of substantive meetings having taken place during the year.

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