Recent news release from the CARICOM Secretariat at Turkeyen, Guyana, has announced that the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Canada are now set to begin negotiations in early November on a Trade and Development Agreement. This decision was taken at a preparatory meeting of CARICOM representatives and Canada’s Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia-Pacific Gateway, The Honourable Stockwell Day, held in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago on Friday, September 11, 2009.
Also present were Maxine McClean, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, Michael Church, Minister of the Environment, Foreign Trade and Export Development of Grenada, Marlene Malahoo Forte, Minister of State in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Jamaica and Joanne Massiah, Minister of State in the Ministry of Legal Affairs of Antigua and Barbuda.
The meeting was hosted by CARICOM’s Ministerial Spokesman for Bilateral Trade Negotiations, Senator The Honourable Mariano Browne, Minister of Trade and Industry and Minister in the Ministry of Finance of Trinidad and Tobago. Minister Browne, indicated that it was anticipated that the new agreement should, among other things, aid in the development of the institutional capacity of the region. Speaking on behalf of the Canadian delegation, Minister Day pointed out that the conclusion of such an agreement was of significant importance, not only to the Caribbean Community but to Canada as well, as both sides would be working together to provide opportunities for jobs and investment.
Currently, trade and economic relations between CARICOM and Canada are covered under a number of instruments, including the 1979 CARICOM-Canada Trade and Economic Co-operation Agreement and its Protocols, including the 1998 Protocol on Rum; CARIBCAN which grants unilateral duty free access to eligible goods from beneficiary countries in the English-speaking Caribbean up to 2011.
CARICOM has over the years been an established market for Canadian goods, services and investors. And according to Foreign Affairs and International Trade Canada, in 2008, a two-way merchandise trade between Canada and CARICOM countries, amounted to $2.5 billion (a 15.8-percent increase from 2007). Canadian merchandise exports to CARICOM totalled $906.4 million and included mineral fuels and oils (not crude), mineral ores, cereals, machinery, paper and paperboard, fish and seafood, and electrical and electronic equipment, while merchandise imports from CARICOM totalled $1.6 billion in 2008 and included natural resource products such as inorganic chemicals, precious stones and metals, organic chemicals, iron and steel, beverages, mineral fuels and oils, fish and seafood, and fertilizers. In 2004, the latest year for which data is available, Canadian services exports were $1.5 billion, primarily in commercial services, while imports amounted to $2.3 billion, mostly for commercial and travel services. In 2006, the stock of Canadian direct investment in, or transhipped through, the CARICOM market registered at $52.95 billion, an increase of 52% since 2001. CARICOM investment into Canada is reported to have increased by 65% since 2001, reaching a level of $760 million in 2006.
The Caribbean Community and Common Market (CARICOM) was established by the Treaty of Chaguaramas, which was signed by Barbados, Jamaica, Guyana and Trinidad & Tobago and came into effect on August 1, 1973. Currently, the Caribbean Community comprises 15 member countries: Antigua and Barbuda, the Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Montserrat, Saint Lucia, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, and Trinidad and Tobago.
CARICOM’s main purposes are to promote economic integration and cooperation among its members, to ensure that the benefits of integration are equitably shared, and to coordinate foreign policy. Its major activities involve coordinating economic policies and development planning; devising and instituting special projects for the less-developed countries within its jurisdiction; operating as a regional single market for many of its members (Caricom Single Market); and handling regional trade disputes.