The Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) will hold its ministerial meeting on April 28-29. This week, however, I will be addressing a topic that I believe is not on COTED’s agenda, but should be. It’s about CARICOM’s relationship with Canada, which, as I said before, is not very high profile.
I learned from a post on Facebook that Canadian Minister of International Trade, Export Promotion, Small Business and Economic Development, Mary Ng, visited Jamaica and participated in a roundtable at the office UWI Regional in Mona on April 14. There was actually an article in the gleaner title “More than documents”.
From my research, I found that there had been notification from Ottawa, Canada as early as early March that Minister Ng would be leading a trade mission in April to the Caribbean. She was to visit Barbados, Guyana, Jamaica and Trinidad and Tobago and meet government and private sector officials. This mission would be consistent with Canada’s official foreign trade position aimed at diversifying its exports and markets.
Prior to COVID-19 and due to its difficulties with its main trading partner, the United States, Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau announced his plan to diversify and increase exports by 50% by 2025. Canada’s goal is to strengthen its economy, create more jobs and explore sustainable business opportunities for its private sector. So the reason Canada was visiting the region was pretty clear.
Minister Mary Ng traveled to Guyana and Jamaica from April 11 to 15, with the aim of strengthening Canada’s trade relationship with the Caribbean and opening doors for Canadian businesses and exporters. The Minister led a virtual trade mission of more than 150 companies to facilitate their access to the region.
The Canadian High Commissioner to Guyana had actively encouraged closer collaboration between the two countries. Canada is already engaged with Guyana in its oil sector, a Guyana-Canada Chamber of Commerce has been established and an air transport agreement is being negotiated.
During Minister Ng’s stopover in Guyana, a memorandum of understanding to facilitate increased cooperation and enable the supply of Canadian goods and services was signed. Guyana’s Finance Minister Ashni Singh said a framework is being established to strengthen their economic and trade relations to increase business between Guyana and Canada in both directions. So Guyana is a Canadian priority.
The only report seen on Minister Ng’s visit to Jamaica was from the panel discussion at UWI, where she posed an interesting question – “How do you think Canada can play a role in Jamaica and the region to foster sustainable economic growth? »
Canada said opportunities exist in the region in infrastructure, renewable energy, climate resilience, financial services, tourism and education.
It’s interesting. As I pointed out in my article of July 22, 2020, entitled ‘Can CARICOM-Canada trade and investment flows be revitalized?’, trade and investment with Canada is actually quite low. CARICOM recorded a trade surplus with Canada, mainly due to exports of alumina, gold and other natural resources. In financial services, Canadian banks, dominant in the region for more than a century, have downsized, reducing their footprint in the region. Scotia has been trying to leave Guyana for some time. At this point, I’m not sure to what extent Canada is interested in financial services in this region.
I think the real areas of opportunity for Canada in promoting sustainability are renewable energy and climate resilience, which are areas of Canadian interest. There can be collaboration with Canada in the transition to the green economy, which includes renewable energy and climate resilience. There is also the blue economy, which refers to the economic uses of marine and coastal resources.
What is not clear to me is CARICOM’s position with respect to Canada. CARICOM and its Member States, including the private sector, should seriously consider the question posed by Minister Ng to determine what role Canada can play in promoting sustainable economic growth, which would include seeking opportunities of trade and investment for CARICOM businesses in Canada.
How can CARICOM countries improve their exports of goods and services to the Canadian market? Are there real opportunities for collaboration between the Caribbean and Canadian private sectors to meet the demand for Caribbean products, in particular agro-industrial products? Can Canada help meet environmental standards? What services can actually be traded? Is there real potential for trade in financial services in Canada?
CARICOM should examine Canada’s potential as a trade and investment partner, given its location in this hemisphere; there is a diaspora of about one million; and it is a source market for tourism.
For years attempts have been made, apparently with little success, to encourage an ongoing dialogue between CARICOM and the Canadian private sector. Is it possible to establish a CARICOM-Canada trade and investment forum? This would still be covered by the 1979 Canada-CARICOM Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement, which I believe is still in effect.
Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email your comments to email@example.com.