April 11, 2010

Easy access for region's products

ublished on: 4/11/2010.

CANADA SAYS it will guarantee access for Caribbean Community (CARICOM) products and services to its market but is insisting on reciprocity, the region's top trade negotiator Ambassador Gail Mathurin, has said.

The two sides have just completed the first phase of negotiations for a new trade and development agreement.

Traditionally, Caribbean goods have been guaranteed unilateral preferential access to Canada under the more than 20-year-old CARIBCAN agreement, which has assured the region of trade preferences.

However, that accord has been deemed to be out of step with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules and is due to come to an end in 2011 when the current waiver expires.

With phase two of the negotiations for the accord scheduled to begin in Canada in the second half of 2010, Mathurin told reporters here on Friday that Canada had already assured the region that "the level of access that we currently have under CARIBCAN would not be diminished under a trade and development agreement.

"(But) as you know CARIBCAN deals with just goods," noted Mathurin, adding, "we would expect that in addition to the existing access that we have on goods which is practically the whole universe of goods . . . we also expect to have an ambitious agreement on trade in services which would cover our service providers which will be a new element vis-a-vis Canada."

However, in keeping with international rules governing free trade, CARICOM may be forced to ensure there is reciprocity.

"What CARICOM is saying to Canada is 'yes we are prepared to look at some kind of reciprocal arrangement with you'.

"At the same time, the level of reciprocity must be governed by factors such as the difference in the levels of development between CARICOM and Canada and within CARICOM itself so we don't see it necessarily as reciprocity that will be mirrored exactly on both sides," she told reporters. (CMC)

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