Canada committed to negotiating trade agreement with CARICOM
…Ambassador tells gathering at GMSA award ceremony
Canada is committed to supporting Guyana and the wider CARICOM and to negotiating a mutually beneficial trade agreement says Canada High Commissioner François Montour.
Addressing a gathering at the Guyana Manufacturing and Services Association’s annual presentation awards dinner ceremony, the envoy said there should be no doubt that such an agreement could offer significant benefits for both Canada and the CARICOM countries.
He assured the mostly business oriented gathering that his Government looks forward to expanded access for CARICOM services and goods exporters within Canadian markets, and CARICOM becoming a more attractive site for growth-inducing Canadian investment.
The Caricom and Canada Trade Negotiations commenced last November in Barbados and from all accounts, negotiations thus far have been very successful.
On Thursday night, the Canadian ambassador to Guyana said his country looks forward to concluding negotiations at the earliest opportunity and emerging with a mutually beneficial Trade agreement for Canada and the CARICOM region.
Even as preparations are ongoing for improved bilateral trade, the High Commissioner said his country has been actively working with the private sector and government to create and support initiatives to help Guyanese and Canadian companies to foster closer trade ties which could result in Guyana and the rest of the Caribbean having improved access to Canadian markets through the much anticipated, and mutually beneficial, Trade Agreement between Canada and CARICOM.
In his outline of some of the prospective benefits he said a trade agreement would profit both Canada and CARICOM as it would help to create more jobs and lower prices representing another step that “our governments” is taking to speed up economic recovery.
Further the High Commissioner said a trade agreement would result in reduced tariff barriers for Canadian products across CARICOM, which would in turn benefit from expanded duty-free treatment in Canada.
Additionally a trade agreement would also provide a more stable and predictable business environment for investors in the region that could help in job creation.
It would provide for better, broader access to the Canadian market than is currently enjoyed under the WTO General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS).
The High Commissioner indicated that there would also be transparency of Canadian regulations to ensure a predictable and stable environment within which CARICOM service providers can operate; and frameworks for negotiating mutual recognition agreements to allow CARICOM professional services providers to qualify to provide services in Canada.
The other benefits include an end of WTO reviews and a permanent lock-in to CARIBCAN’s duty-free market access as well as extend duty free treatment to certain goods excluded from CARIBCAN, including textiles, apparel and footwear, which currently face Canadian import duties of up to 20%.
The agreement would also ensure CARICOM remains on a level playing-field with competitors that enjoy preferential access to the Canadian market.
The ambassador also said that a bilateral trade agreement will create strong investment rules that would encourage foreign investment by creating a more secure, transparent and predictable environment for Guyanese and other regional investors in Canada, and also for Canadian investors in Guyana and the wider region for tourism, financial services, and mining.
Importantly, the Commissioner said, a trade deal would also send a clear signal to Canadian investors that CARICOM is an investment-friendly region and would contribute to a positive economic climate by facilitating investments that encourage technology transfer, management practices and business culture.
As import duties fall, other countries’ technical regulations setting out product specifications are becoming increasingly important challenges exporters must meet.
A trade agreement could; see technical barriers addressed in an effective manner by promoting good regulatory practices including: transparency (e.g. providing public access to information), the use of international standards, such as those with which CARICOM exporters are familiar (e.g. ISO industrial standards or CODEX food standards), and the streamlining of conformity assessment procedures (e.g. sampling, testing, inspection and certification); and lead to the creation of a mechanism to address specific technical barriers to trade encountered by CARICOM’s exporters.
High Commissioner Montour also shared his country’s perspective on international trade.
In its bilateral Trade Agreements, Canada has taken more liberal temporary entry commitments than it has at the WTO, including expanded coverage for professionals, technicians, and spouses, which eliminate the labour market impact test Canada normally requires before entry can be granted to such temporary foreign workers.
Offering an example, the High Commissioner said Canadian banks are already helping to foster economic growth through access to credit and other financial services.
He said a trade agreement that protects investments and facilitates trade in financial services could promote further development of CARCIOM’s financial services sector and expand its benefits for the region.
A Canada-CARICOM trade agreement would guarantee CARICOM suppliers ready access to information on: Canada’s federal procurement system and rules, including how to prepare and submit tenders; and over $10 billion of annual purchases of goods and services by Canada’s federal government, including construction services.
CARICOM and Canada have enjoyed an enduring connection based on a shared history, common systems of government, strong people-to-people links, and cooperation at all levels of government.
In the financial sector, he singled out Scotiabank from Nova Scotia as having operated in the Caribbean since 1834 and said that it is now a major banking presence in the Caribbean.
Canada is currently providing over $1 million in technical assistance to the Caribbean region to support capacity-building projects and training on labour matters and the High Commissioner assured those gathered that his government is committed to helping its trade partners meet the obligations of labour agreements through technical cooperation.
He further stated that Canada and CARICOM share a commitment to democracy, good governance and government-to-government cooperation.
Reflecting he noted that from 1963, Canada has provided over $2 billion in development assistance to the Commonwealth Caribbean, making Canada one of the region’s most important bilateral donors.
In July 2007, Canada’s Prime Minister announced $600 million over 10 years in additional bilateral development assistance for the Caribbean.
This is in addition to the $555 million in development assistance provided by Canada to Haiti over five years (2006-2011).
While trade liberalization offers the Caribbean many important opportunities for growth the Canadian High commissioner said “it could also present some challenges” and “as such, Canada is helping to build the region’s capacity to negotiate and implement trade and regional integration initiatives through a $15.7 million CARICOM Trade and Competitiveness Program to support the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery and the CARICOM Secretariat.”
Canada, in partnership with multilateral and regional institutions, is delivering a $23.2 million project to respond to the Trade-Related Technical Assistance needs of countries in the Americas
The country also has an active history of supporting trade as a means for promoting international development.
“We believe that Trade is indeed a tremendous force for economic development and security. There is no better example of this than the recent impact of trade on economic growth and poverty reduction in South and East Asia,” the commissioner said.
He also reminded that unlike other countries, Canada does not use trade sanctions in its agreements to address non-compliance on labour issues and said that any monetary assessments would be used to strengthen capacity in the partner countries to address labour enforcement challenges.