Jagdeo urges caution on Canada trade talks

GEORGETOWN, Guyana: President Bharrat Jagdeo says development dimension needs to be discussed before proposed trade negotiations commence between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Canada.

“That discussion is critical for us before we start the discussions (on trade). We don’t want another pure free trade agreement based on reciprocity. It will not bring the benefits to our people,” he said recently.

Jagdeo, who attended the Fifth Summit of the Americas in Trinidad two weeks ago but did not attend a meeting with Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, was pleased by reports suggesting the Canadian leader was open to discussions on these issues.

“Some of the countries had argued that we need a mature trade agreement with the European Union based on non-reciprocity. We can’t expect these people to be assisting us all our lives, we are praising the United States for extending CBERA, which is a non-reciprocal preferential trade agreement up to 2014. So we have got to learn to be consistent in this,” he said.

Jagdeo said that because the countries of the region are so small, were they to benefit from preferential trade agreements, it would not disturb global trade.

“Rather than trying to argue for this, sometimes we are a little hot and cold; one time we want reciprocity, another time we don’t want reciprocity. We have to come up with a set of principles and arguments to pursue our cause because reciprocity, in the past, has been a development tool in responding to this particular thing in our economy.”

In February, Peter Kent, Canada’s Minister of State for the Americas in the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade, met with Jagdeo in Guyana and discussed preparations for the proposed free trade agreement as well as the global economic crisis.

Trade between Canada and CARICOM is small but increasing. Official statistics show that two-way trade in goods amounted to US$2 billion dollars in 2006 and trade in services involved another US$3 billion dollars.

In both goods and services, Canada has had a deficit with CARICOM, which has averaged about US$1 billion annually over the last five years.

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