Last update: 08-Dec-2013 4:55 am
Sunday, December 08, 2013
Trinidad & Tobago Guardian Online
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Deadline set for new Caricom/Canada pact
Caricom has given a deadline of early 2014 for Caricom/Canada negotiations to be completed. This was confirmed yesterday by Trade Minister Vasant Bharath. The current agreement expires in December. On Wednesday, Nicholas Lok Jack, president of the T&T Manufacturers Association (TTMA) expressed concern that the deadline was fast approaching, Caricom had not taken any position on the matter and there had been no decision on a bilateral agreement in the interim.
Responding to Lok Jack’s concerns, Bharath said Caricom had mandated Jamaica’s Prime Minister Portia Simpson Miller to meet with Canada’s Prime Minister Stephen Harper and the issue had been “elevated to the Heads level with a view to concluding the agreement as quickly as possible”.
Bharath, who was speaking to reporters following a workshop on Keys to Trade and Export Financing 2 at the T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce, Westmoorings, explained: “Canada is insistent that the negotiations be completed by the end of December 2013. Caricom is saying it is not possible to conclude before the end of the first quarter or certainly by the second quarter of next year.
“We are hopeful there can be some resolution to the matter. Clearly if there is an extension of time to next year then we would also need to seek an extension of the WTO arrangement so that the duties can continue to be exempt until that time.” Bharath said TTMA had been updated on the issue.
“Coted is due to meet in early November and we are hopeful that we can progress the matter at that stage as well, but we believe that the discussion between Prime Minister Harper and Prime Minister Portia Simpson will bear some fruit in the next couple weeks,” he said.
Lok Jack said the TTMA was felt very “encouraged” that Caricom was taking the agreement seriously. “We would like to see this issue moved forward toward resolution, so that it will not affect the US$250 million of exports that are sent to Canada each year by T&T manufacturers. It appears that we have gotten some traction in the process and we will keep in contact with the Minister of Trade for updates.”
T&T Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Larry Placide, consultant for the Chamber’s International Trade Negotiations Unit (ITNU) said the group also embraced the effort being made by Caricom to complete the negotiations. He added that the negotiations are going too slowly.
“We are waiting now to see whether a negotiating session will be held before the end of November. One was supposed to be held before the end of October but that has not happened. We’re hoping that there would be progress in the negotiations before the end of December,” Placide said.
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