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Barbados and its CARICOM neighbours are heading into 2013 with challenges in their negotiation of a trade agreement with Canada.

As regional officials and their North American counterparts prepare for the fifth round of talks for their CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Agreement, it has emerged that the two sides remained stalled on a major aspect of trade in services.The issue was addressed in a new comment by Government’s Economic Affairs Division.

“The issue of the use of the positive list and negative list approach continues to stall the negations in services in respect of offers for liberalisation,” it noted.

“Barbados and CARICOM favour the positive list approach where all sectors to be liberalised are clearly identified. On the other hand, Canada favours the use of the negative list approach which does not permit sectors developed in the future to be afforded protection if they were not envisaged and planned.

“The treatment of development is a major area of contention between the Parties given that CARICOM is seeking binding commitments in respect of developmental assistance from Canada.”

It was pointed out, however, that the Canadians were “resisting this and in recent negotiations has forwarded for CARICOM’s scrutiny a memorandum of understanding which does not speak to binding developmental assistance for CARICOM states”.

It was anticipated that negotiations towards the agreement would be completed within the next months to “allow for legal scrub, signing and ratification of the agreement by the parties”.

Barbados and the CARICOM countries exporting goods to Canada currently do so under the Caribbean-Canada Trade Agreement, a one-way preferential arrangement which gives Commonwealth Caribbean countries duty free access to the Canadian market for a wide range of goods. This arrangement will expire at the end of next year. While the proposed free trade agreement will maintain and enhance duty free treatment of CARICOM goods in the Canadian market, it will also create new access for Canadian exports to the region and invariably, added competition for regional producers.

Other areas including trade in services, investment, intellectual property and development support for CARICOM would also be covered. (SC)

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