Why no free trade agreement between Caribbean and Africa?

Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of the International Trade Centre.

“If a region as small as the Caribbean can negotiate a reciprocal free trade agreement with Europe, then why should we not be able to do one with Africa?”
That question posed by Pamela Coke-Hamilton, executive director of the International Trade Centre (ITC), drew applause from delegates at the “soft” opening of the 31st Africa Export-Import Bank (Afreximbank) Annual Meetings (AAM) and the third edition of the AfriCaribbean Trade and Investment Forum (ACTIF2024) in the Baha Mar Convention Centre on Wednesday, and set the tone for discussions at the dual event being held under the theme, Owning Our Destiny: Economic Prosperity on the Platform of Global Africa.
Pointing to research conducted by the ITC in conjunction with Afreximbank, Coke-Hamilton said that while trade between Africa and the Caribbean holds enormous potential, the share of African exports that go to the Caribbean has been on the decline over the last decade.
“Today, less than 0.1 per cent of African exports go to the Caribbean and less than three per cent of Caribbean exports go to the African continent,” she said, adding that too often, high tariffs and non-tariff barriers are holding the export potential back.
“Trade agreements are one way to help bring down barriers and open new opportunities. We already have useful precedents that show us what works and what doesn’t, and what can be improved such as the economic partnership agreements in both regions with the EU.”
Coke-Hamilton said a Free Trade Agreement between Africa and the Caribbean could remove artificial barriers and create new opportunities.
During his welcome remarks, the host country’s Central Bank Governor John Rolle said the gathering comprised of thousands of leaders, government officials, private sector players had “a great opportunity to leverage the shared history, identities and cultures of African Caribbean nations and to forge stronger trade and investment bonds”.
Senior Executive Vice President at Afreximbank, Denys Denya also highlighted the importance of collaboration between the two regions.
He noted that Africa controls a considerable portion of the global production of minerals, including platinum, natural diamonds, chromite, manganese, phosphate rock, gold, and uranium, and accounts for over 60 per cent of the world’s uncultivated arable land. Despite being endowed with such an abundance of natural resources, he said, the continent’s quest for sustainable development has been a perennial struggle.
“The state of development across the Caribbean, while not identical, is not quite different from this narrative. It is in this context of sustained deprivation and marginalisation that we seek to unify our force in the context of global Africa for a better future,” Denya said. “In our unity, we have the numbers, we have the voice to sit at the table when decisions are made. Our combined imagination and resources should create a viable force for a competitive edge.”
Read more in tonight’s epaper. 

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