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Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Dr Kenneth Baugh, has said that Jamaica and all other CARICOM states were pleased with Canada’s reengagement with the region, and that CARICOM Heads of Government were looking forward to the start of the CARICOM/Canada Free Trade negotiations.
Dr. Baugh made the comment when he addressed Canadian Parliamentarians and Government officials in Ottawa, Canada, recently.
He said CARICOM Heads of Government agreed on a draft negotiating text, when they met in Belize March 12-13, but noted that there was one difference between the initial Canadian and CARICOM positions.
“While Canada speaks of negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement, CARICOM Heads speak of a Trade and Development Agreement. We feel strongly that any trade agreement with the region should have a strong development component to help us build capacity. This is not a matter merely of nomenclature, but is rather a policy distinction. Perhaps, the positions will not be far apart when the negotiations get under way,” Dr. Baugh said.
He added that CARICOM had benefitted from development support from Canada, at the regional level as well as bilaterally among member states. He also thanked Canada for continuing to support the strengthening of the regional integration process, and acceleration of the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market objectives.
Canada’s Prime Minister, Rt. Hon. Stephen Harper, will be meeting with CARICOM leaders during the Summit of the Americas, set to take place for the first time in the Caribbean, in Trinidad and Tobago, April 17-19. Mr. Harper will travel to Jamaica for a two-day visit following the Summit.
Canada’s Minister of State for Foreign Affairs, the Hon. Peter Kent, who also addressed the gathering, reiterated his country’s commitment to the member states of CARICOM.
“CARICOM countries are at the very core of Canada’s engagement in the Americas, which commits Canada to deepening its activities in the region. That engagement is based on the themes of security, prosperity and democracy,” he said.
Mr. Kent noted that there will be significant economic benefits for CARICOM countries coming out of the Free Trade Agreement.
“We are ready to sit down at the negotiating table with CARICOM countries,” he said. “Canada is committed to strengthening the already firm bond between our countries. We have a rich foundation on which to build and we must not lose this opportunity.”
The breakfast meeting was hosted by Jamaica’s High Commissioner to Canada, Her Excellency Evadne Coye, and Chair of the Canada-Caribbean Parliamentary Friendship Group, Ms. Raymond Folco.

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