Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Canada Feeling Backlash from EU Trade Deal with CARICOM

(Embassy – Lee Berthiaume)

Canada’s chances of securing a free trade agreement with the Caribbean Community may have been inadvertently damaged by fallout over a similar deal the European Union signed with the 15-nation bloc last year.

Last month, Peter Kent, Canada’s minister of state for the Americas, toured Guyana, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago, the latter of which will host April’s Summit of the Americas. Mr. Kent met senior officials from all three countries as well as Organization of American States Secretary-General José Miguel Insulza and the secretary-general of CARICOM, Edwin Carrington.

In a teleconference call from the capital of Trinidad and Tobago on February 18, the minister said he impressed upon all those he met “that the time is right to engage in, at least before the summit, a preliminary round of negotiations on the free trade agreement.”

Prime Minister Stephen Harper announced the launch of negotiations in July 2007 during a trip to the region, but they have since stalled, with no formal round of talks actually held. The EU, meanwhile, managed to secure what an Economic Partnership Agreement last year with the CARICOM nations and the Dominican Republic.

That EPA, however, caused a split within CARICOM. Large portions of the private sector felt the Caribbean countries gave away more than they gained, while even some government officials in various member states questioned the deal. Read more here.