The Barbados Private Sector Trade Team is partnering with the CARICOM Office of Trade Negotiations and the Barbados Investment and Development Corporation to convene consultations with the Barbados business community on the way forward with respect to trade talks between CARICOM countries and Canada.
These consultations will be held at the Island Inn Hotel, Aquatic Gap on Tuesday April 23 from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m.
Joel Richards, Trade Consultant at the BPSTT said: “CARICOM has been involved in trade talks with Canada since 2009. After four rounds of technical negotiations with Canada and numerous intra-CARICOM meetings on this subject, we are very concerned within the BPSTT at the slow pace of these negotiations.
“Essentially, failure to conclude an Agreement with Canada by the end of 2013 could result in some of our exports to Canada such as rum, beer, pepper sauces and aerated beverages among others being charged import duties. Currently, our exports to Canada enter that market duty free under the Canada-Tariff Treatment for Commonwealth Caribbean Countries.
“However, CARIBCAN expires on December 31, 2013 and the Canadians have not demonstrated any willingness to extend this arrangement.
“Apart from the matter of our goods trade with Canada being affected, failure to conclude an agreement would also affect our wide range of service sector exporters. If we fail to finalise an agreement with Canada, our service providers could also be marginalised in that market, especially given the fact that Canada is now negotiating services agreements with 20 members of the World Trade Organisation.
“Therefore, the window of opportunity for us to gain some leverage over our competitors in the Canadian market is quickly closing.”
Richards added: “We believe that the negotiations with Canada are important in terms of setting the framework for long term trade and investment relations with that country. While there are concerns among some domestic stakeholders about the potential impact of liberalisation on their sectors, we believe that we can secure the necessary exclusions and protections for our most sensitive industries.
“Bearing this in mind and given the possible erosion of the region’s preferential access to the Canadian market for exports, the BPSTT is in favour of concluding an agreement with Canada which secures and enhances our market access in Canada while simultaneously maintaining all necessary exclusions for our most sensitive sectors.”
Key speakers will include Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Maxine McClean and Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss. The main presenters at the consultations include Lincoln Private — Private Sector Liaison at the OTN; Julie Mapp — Consultant in the Division of Foreign Trade; and Lisa Gale — Executive Director at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
Through these consultations, the BPSTT is hoping that the business community and Barbados’ and CARICOM’s trade negotiators can arrive at some form of consensus on how to advance the negotiations with Canada.