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Trade minister: Caricom-Canada pact likely by July
Caricom will have a partnership trade agreement with Canada by July, according to Trade, Industry and Investment Minister Vasant Bharath. Speaking at the opening plenary session of the second round of negotiations between this country and El Salvador at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, he said: “Very recently we signed an agreement with the European Partnership, the European Partnership Agreement, which allows us access to 500 million people.”
Bharath added that “we are in the process of negotiating with the Canadians to sign a Canada Caricom agreement which we hope to sign by July of this year”. He said the T&T Government had a very aggressive trade policy document covering the period 2013 to 2017.
“We have negotiated agreements already with Panama and with Guatemala. On our books we have agreements with Venezuela, Costa Rica, Cuba and the Dominican Republic. We intend to continue negotiations with other countries in this part of the hemisphere to deepen and widen the markets for our manufacturers,” he said.
Ambassador Extraordinary and Plenipotentiary for Trade and Industry, Mervyn Assam, said the first round of negotiations with El Salvador started in that country last year and both governments hoped to complete the third and final round in April in El Salvador. Vice Minister of the Economy of El Salvador, Mario Roger Hernandez, said this week’s visit to T&T was his second. He visited about two years ago to promote the partial scope agreement and had several meetings with government officials.
He described El Salvador as a very open economy with major trading partners. He said T&T was considered to be a very strategic partner and the private sector in El Salvador was very interested as proved by their participation in the delegation at the negotiations.
“This partial scope agreement could bring a vast benefit to our economies and we are very welcome that Trinidad and Tobago is opening to the world. El Salvador is a very open economy with major free trade agreements with major trade partners,” he said, adding that he saw this agreement as “an opportunity to increase the opening of the economy with TT.”
“We are opening opportunities to increase our actual trade of approximately 31 billion, and diversify the number of products being traded at this moment mainly consisting of bars and rods of steel, mineral fuels and oil, plastic and teak containers, plastic and sugar,” Hernandez said. Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran said: “El Salvador is relatively small but much larger economy than ours, the third largest economy in Central America, one that has shown dynamism in the new horizon of trade.”
The minister said as a “result of much discussion” the two countries were negotiating partial scope trade, investment and tourism agreements. The opening session for the negotiations was attended by Minister of Arts and Multiculturalism Dr Lincoln Douglas and Deputy Chief Secretary of the Tobago House of Assembly (THA) and Secretary of Tourism, Tracey Davidson-Celestine.