ST JOHN’S, Antigua – As the Caribbean Community (Caricom) prepares for a fourth round of negotiations with Canada on a new trade agreement, Antigua & Barbuda has been told its market could be opened to more goods from Toronto.
A national consultation for a Caricom-Canada Trade and Development Agreement concluded here late yesterday.
Speaking at the opening, Joseph Sealey of the Ministry of Finance, Trade, Industry and Commerce section, alerted stakeholders to the reciprocity of the new arrangement.
He said the new arrangement would mean that “unlike other trade agreements where Canada will only give us, we now have to give in exchange for whatever we are getting.”
Sealey said this came about because of a ruling handed down by the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and added that it should not be seen as a disadvantage.
“It means therefore that we can demand from Canada what we want and not subject ourselves to only what they want to give us,” he said.
Attending yesterday’s consultation were trade officials, the local business community, and members of civil society.
Antigua & Barbuda is joining other Eastern Caribbean States in presenting its concerns to Canada as a single bloc in time for the expiration of the current Caricom-Canada agreement in 2013.
Programme Officer for Trade at the OECS Secretariat Delores Francis tried to persuade local stakeholders that this is the best way to go.
She highlighted the services sector as one area that would require a unified sub-regional approach.
The feedback given here will form part of a wider document that will be presented to regional heads of government when they meet in June.
Relations with Canada are currently governed by the CARIBCAN agreement. Unlike the CARIBCAN, the new agreement will cover all facets of trade including investments, goods, services, technical co-operation and trade-related issues.
(More in today’s Daily OBSERVER)