Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, sees Canada as a very important trade and development partner of Barbados.
McClean expressed this view today while speaking at the opening of the Barbados Private Sector Trade Team’s “Consultation on the Status of The Region’s Negotiations with Canada”.
She noted that Barbados’ exporters continued to benefit from market access offered under the CARIBCAN Agreement and pointed out that Barbados looked forward to the expansion of this access to facilitate trade in services and investment as well.
The minister however voiced Barbados’ disappointment with the delay in concluding the negotiations for a successor arrangement which would accommodate and continue to facilitate the country’s trade and development needs.
McClean, who is Leader of Government Business in the Senate, said she recognised the inherent challenges which negotiating with a larger trading partner and negotiating as a bloc could posed, but told the gathering that recently Cabinet took a decision which committed Barbados to completing a comprehensive Trade and Development Agreement with Canada as soon as possible.
She argued that in spite of the current economic and financial climate, Barbados saw Canada as a prospective market in which it could build avenues for increased exports and investment. McClean maintained that the consultative process which her ministry was engaged in continued to bear fruit.
“It is Barbados’ view that many of the difficulties resonate with processes, which is separate and distinct from the difficulties being encountered in arriving at a consensus with Canada on trade issues,” she added.
McClean argued that in order to make substantial progress in moving the process forward, there needed to be an immersion of the political directorate of CARICOM and very senior officials in the negotiating process.
“What I am advocating is not a call for ministers to be at the negotiating table, but to be accessible and to be given adequate opportunity to distil the issues where direction is needed,” McClean told the gathering.
“There are avenues available, we have the technology available to us and we must be prepared to use it.”
The Government senator recalled that the negotiations had been ongoing for almost four years, and said that as a result of the drawn out process, the region’s credibility and seriousness relative to completing the negotiations were at stake.
She supported a call for a ministerial meeting with Minister of International Trade and Minister for the Asia Pacific Gateway of Canada, Edward Fast, to be undertaken as soon as possible.
McClean pointed out that the Government of Barbados must reassure Fast and the government of Canada that Barbados was serious about the process and was committed to seeing it to the end.
Expressing government’s appreciation of the continued preferential access to the Canadian market, McClean said she hoped that the country’s negotiators and political directorate would do all that was necessary to ensure that Barbados retained and improved access which the country had enjoyed traditionally.†(NC)