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Jamaica and its CARICOM partners are poised to commence negotiating a free trade agreement with Canada, which is the region’s third largest trading partner.
Speaking in the 2008/09 Sectoral Debate in the House on June 25, Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Minister, Dr. Ken Baugh informed that the negotiations with Canada have been in the pipeline since 2001 and, although Canada obtained a Most-Favoured Nation (MFN) waiver in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) for CARIBCAN up to 2011, they have already indicated that they will not be renewing this waiver.
“This leaves Jamaica and the region with little option but to negotiate an arrangement with Canada, which will be WTO compatible, meaning a free trade agreement,” Dr. Baugh said.
However, he said Jamaica and CARICOM partners have indicated to Canada that this should be a trade and development agreement, taking into account the asymmetrical nature of the arrangement.
“It is important for us to emphasize this, because there might be a little reluctance on the part of developed countries to have a development clause, so development is a very important aspect of the free trade arrangements that we are negotiating with Canada,” the Minister pointed out.
Jamaica has traded with Canada under the Canada/Commonwealth Caribbean Trade Agreement (CARIBCAN), since 1986. This is a non-reciprocal preferential arrangement.
Meanwhile, Dr. Baugh announced that the United States (US) Congress has approved, in the 2008 Farm Bill, the extension of the Caribbean Basin Trade Partnership Act (CBTPA).
“The region is expected to use this period to continue serious exploration of a future trading arrangement with principal trading partners, which will be beneficial to Jamaica and our CARICOM partners,” he told the House.