- The Honourable Senate is advised that I attended the 38th Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Guyana, 9th- 10th May 2014.
- The Regular COTED Meeting was held on Friday, and a Special Session was held on Saturday, with the regional private sector.
- The agenda of the Regular COTED addressed a number of very important issues.
The Honourable Senate is advised that I attended the 38th Meeting of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) in Guyana, 9th– 10th May 2014, last week Friday and Saturday. The Regular COTED Meeting was held on Friday, and a Special Session was held on Saturday, with the regional private sector. The agenda of the Regular COTED addressed a number of very important issues. In this Statement, I will focus on two of the key issues of importance to Jamaica as follows:
- Developments related to the CARICOM/Canada Trade and Development Agreement; and
- Follow-up to the Special Session on the Strategic Direction of the Council for Trade and Economic Development.
Other agenda items of specific interest at the Regular COTED were:
- The reports on the Work of the Commission on the Economy and the Transportation Commission;
- Advancing the Regional Agenda for Sustainable Development using Information and Communications Technologies (ICTs); and
- The Status of the Preparation of the Regional Strategic Plan for Services.
I will also briefly report on the Special Session with the Regional Private Sector which is linked to the item on the Strategic COTED and, in fact, to the other items highlighted.
- 1. Negotiations for a CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement
This was a principal item before the COTED with the aim of considering the state of the negotiations, providing guidance to the Region’s negotiators, and considering the way forward. This item was considered in caucus at the Ministerial Session.
Recent newspaper articles have given an indication of the current state of these negotiations, which have been in progress since 2009. Members will recall that in October 2013, both sides agreed, at Prime Ministerial level, that these negotiations will continue until the end of June this year. CARICOM has been working diligently to meet this deadline and to achieve an agreement which takes account of the interests of a region of small, vulnerable developing countries with trade capacity constraints.
The Sixth Round of Negotiations was held in two parts, the first here in Kingston, 3rd-7th March, and, the second part, in Ottawa, 31st March to 4th April 2014. This Round was completed with progress made on the text of the agreement and on non-controversial issues. However, major differences between the parties remain on critical issues such as market access for goods (i.e. tariff liberalization), services and investment, development, and labour and environment standards, among other things. Both sides agreed to engage in stocktaking before embarking on a Seventh Round of Negotiations.
CARICOM has already demonstrated a high level of flexibility in these negotiations. The conclusion of the negotiations requires flexibility on both sides. As of today, there are about six weeks remaining to the end of June.
Level of Ambition
In the jargon of international trade, the parties in a negotiation speak of their “level of ambition” when considering the benefits to be gained from the negotiations, such as greater tariff liberalization to facilitate increased market access. In our view, CARICOM has demonstrated a very high level of ambition in these negotiations from the very outset, by voluntarily undertaking to negotiate a comprehensive reciprocal trade and development agreement with Canada.
CARICOM, in its ambition, requires this agreement to be asymmetrical, taking account of the fact that the region comprises small, vulnerable developing countries engaged in negotiations with a larger, more diversified developed country, listed among the largest trading nations in the world.
The quality and level of ambition in negotiations cannot be assessed only by the depth and breadth of tariff liberalization. Ambition in trade negotiations depends on the perspective from which it is being evaluated. For example, in the WTO Doha Round and the now dormant negotiations for a Free Trade Area of the Americas (FTAA), the developed countries thought that the developing countries were being too ambitious in demanding greater access to their markets for agricultural products and the reduction of subsidies in their agricultural sectors.
Similarly, comments attributed to Canada to the effect that CARICOM lacks ambition, no doubt stem from their perception that the region is not being generous enough in its tariff liberalisation offer. We, on the other hand, could posit that Canada has not been ambitious in their response on development support and on the modalities for services and investment.
Commitment to the Negotiations
CARICOM is continuing preparations to participate in a Seventh Round of Negotiations. We are committed to concluding an agreement with Canada which takes into account the interests of the region as a whole.
I wish to remind this Honourable Senate of the Jamaica/Canada bilateral relationship.
Notwithstanding the issues in the trade arena, and in immigration from time to time, I want to point out that Jamaica and Canada continue to maintain a generally positive and mutually beneficial partnership. Canada is an investment partner, a significant source of overseas development assistance, the second largest market for tourist arrivals, the third major trading partner, and home to a large Jamaican community numbering an estimated 300,000.
Let me take this opportunity to express Jamaica’s appreciation to Canada for its development support over the years, in areas such as security and justice, among others. It is known that the road in any friendship does not always run smoothly, but the strength of that friendship is demonstrated in the actions taken to overcome the challenges that may arise from time to time.
- 2. Follow-up to the Special Session on the Strategic Direction of COTED
This item continued the discussions on the Strategic Direction of the COTED which commenced at the 37th Session of the COTED held in Guyana on 9th November 2013. We, therefore, continued our examination of the current economic environment at the regional and international levels, the priorities for CARICOM, and the operations of the Council.
It is out of these discussions that it was further recognized that COTED needed to have the greater involvement of the regional private sector. This is viewed as vital to deal more effectively with the priorities identified, including implementing the CSME, and addressing the many trade and economic challenges facing the region such as production and competitiveness, intra and extra-regional trade, transportation, energy, and development of tradable services.
- 3. Special Session with the Regional Private Sector
This Special Session on Saturday, 10th May was attended by representatives of regional private sector organizations such as:
- Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC)
- The Caribbean Farmers Network
- The Caribbean Association of Small, Medium Enterprises (CASME)
- The Caribbean Poultry Association
- OECS Business Council
- Sugar Association of the Caribbean (SAC)
Jamaica’s delegation included Mr. Oliver Chen, Vice President of the Jamaica Chamber of Commerce, who addressed the Special Session on Jamaica’s Private Sector engagement with the Government in the pursuit of growth and development.
The private sector representatives were encouraged to give their views on such issues as their role in the Caribbean Community; establishing the environment for business, trade and growth; and a mechanism for ongoing dialogue with the COTED.
The resuscitation of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce was welcomed. Jamaica also supported the work being done to establish a Caribbean Business Council. With regard to the mechanism for further engagement with the private sector, Jamaica proposed that the COTED consider convening sessions focusing particularly on industrial policy and services.
It is now expected that the private sector representatives will meet among themselves to define priority interests; to determine how they can contribute to the process; and what support they would need from COTED to implement the growth and development agenda outlined by the CARICOM Heads of Government and the Council for Finance and Planning (COFAP). The sector will also be expected to establish time frames for the engagement.
It has to be recognized that these deliberations among the private sector must, as a matter of urgency, commence at the national level.
This session with the private sector is considered a signally important step for COTED in moving forward with growth and development in the region. I continue to encourage the full involvement and participation of Jamaica’s private sector in the advancement of our common objectives in the national, regional and international trade and economic development agenda.