Harper seeking free trade with CARICOM

Addressing a joint sitting of Jamaica’s House of Representatives and Senate in Kingston, Monday, Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, urged the member states of the Caribbean Community, CARICOM, to enter into a free trade agreement with Canada.

Harper said Jamaica, as a senior leader of CARICOM, was uniquely positioned to lead the region into ensuring CARICOM was part of the global economic system. Entering into a free trade agreement with Canada would be beneficial to member nations, particularly Jamaica, and send a signal of unity in the Americas, he said.

At a press conference called by Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding to address the hijacking of a CanJet aircraft at Sangster International Airport in Montego Bay Sunday night, Harper praised the Jamaican security forces for their professionalism, adding that he was very delighted at how the situation turned out. He expressed gratitude for the safe release of all the passengers and crew.

“I want to thank Prime Minister Golding for his personal involvement and engagement in this. I know that he and all of his people have spent a very long night, but right from the Prime Minister down, the Jamaican authorities have demonstrated a competency and a professionalism and rapidity in dealing with events that I think is not just something we are deeply appreciative for, but quite frankly awed by, and it is quite a performance for which all of you should be very proud,” he said.

Harper, who arrived on the island Sunday following the Summit of the Americas in Trinidad, is expected to hold bilateral talks with Golding on a range of issues, including the global economic crisis and Canada’s assistance in the implementation of the Justice Reform Program.

The Canadian leader is also expected to pay courtesy calls on Governor-General, Dr. Patrick Allen and the Leader of the Opposition, Portia Simpson-Miller.

He will tour the Jamaica Military Air School, which receives funding from the Canadian government, and will meet with Jamaican-Canadian business leaders at a working luncheon. He will also participate in a signing ceremony for the Justice Undertakings for Social Transformation (JUST) project.

Harper will leave Jamaica on Tuesday.

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