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Barbados wants better relations with Canada

TORONTO, Canada – Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur wants to renew, refresh and re-define Barbados’ relationship with Canada.

He made this assertion on Thursday, July 19 during a joint press conference with Canadian Prime Minister, Stephen Harper, at the Sherbourne Conference Centre.

Mr. Arthur noted that the visit of the Canadian leader was “part of a very long tradition that goes back many years and reflects not just the relationship between Barbados and Canada, but the depth of the friendship that has always bound our two countries”.

Prime Minister Arthur underscored the point that the visit was important at this time since the region was redefining and re-developing its relationship with its traditional allies. He said it was timely, since, only a few weeks ago, CARICOM heads had met with the President of the United States of America, George Bush. At that forum, Mr. Arthur said, regional leaders discussed the deepening and widening of trade relations in the region. In addition, he said, Caribbean negotiators would be examining how the region was going to re-define its economic and trade relationship with Europe.

Prime Minister Arthur revealed that, at a special summit in Montego Bay, Jamaica, in 2001, it was agreed that it was time for “a more mature and deeper trade and economic relationship with Canada”.

Stating that if “we were going to have a new relationship with the hemispheres that perhaps the best place by which to begin to practice what that new relationship would entail was in the relationship with Canada”.

The Prime Minister of Barbados cited the Caribbean Canada Agreement (CARIBCAN) as an example of one of the characteristics of the relationship with Canada, which is a one-way, free trade agreement. He thanked Canada for its generosity in that endeavor but pointed out that there were limitations in the arrangement, since it covered only a select range of goods. Consequently, the Prime Minister stressed that it was not a modern trade agreement because it excluded services and “the Caribbean and Barbados are interested in services”, he declared.

Mr. Arthur further added that CARIBCAN did not provide for rules of investment and the other things that would constitute a modern trade agreement. He said that it was time-bound and had to be renewed every five years. CARIBCAN is an economic and trade development assistance program for countries of the Commonwealth Caribbean. It was signed in 1986.

In response, Canada’s Prime Minister stated that his government was committed to strengthening the relationship between Canada and Barbados. He said that Canada “viewed Barbados as a key partner in the region” and both nations had enjoyed good commercial relations and cultural ties.

Pointing to a number of mutual bilateral interests, Mr. Harper revealed that these included economic growth, security, and regional cooperation in the Caribbean.

The Canadian head gave the assurance that his country intended to embark upon a new partnership with CARICOM member states to provide support for economic renewal, security challenges, and to ensure democratic governance.

Adding that Canada would continue to have a sustained, high-level presence in the region, he said: “We will engage more actively with key regional partners and display leadership within regional organizations and institutions.”

Mr. Harper thanked the Government of Barbados for agreeing to partner in the Canadian Manufacturers and Exporters Association’s Conference, which will be held next January to mark the centennial of the establishment of the first trade commissioner’s service in Barbados.

While here, the Canadian leader held talks with several CARICOM heads of government at Sandy Lane Hotel, addressed an Ideas Forum at the Hilton hotel and presented medals to Canadian navy personnel on board the frigate HMCS Fredericton.

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