The recent Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) Ministerial Meeting in Georgetown, Guyana turned out to be ???quite useful.???

So says Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, as he described his recent two-day meeting in the South American country.

Noting that quite a number of issues were laid on the table, Mr. Inniss explained that they were addressed ???head on???.

???We looked at external economic and trade relations including those with Cuba, also quite a bit of emphasis was placed on the ongoing negotiations for a CARICOM/Canada Trade and Development Agreement which is out there in the public domain and is slowly moving ahead and we have a deadline of June 30, to try and wrap this up,??? he explained, while adding that CARICOM Members States had a number of concerns that they wished to table with the Canadian Government.

Speaking about some of the topics on the agenda, he added: ???There were some smaller issues in terms of goods and which ones we would allow in duty free and vice versa, matters pertinent to our rum industry and I think we have started to make some head way there in terms of this Agreement with Canada to avoid our rums having to be mixed with alcohol in Canada, and of course, there are issues in terms of the Federal Government of Canada versus the Provincial Government and their rules and regulations,??? he disclosed.

The issue of development aid also featured prominently at the COTED meeting and according to the Minister ???one must be very mindful in these negotiations that it is not just the party that you are currently negotiating with but there are other exogenous factors such as our obligations under the [Word Trade Organisation] WTO, existing trade arrangements we have and to ensure that the playing field is level.

Minister Inniss added that ???of equal importance are those other trade arrangements that we will be negotiating to ensure for example, that what we do with Canada may not be any less or more favourable than what we have with the European Union or what we may wish to negotiate with the U.S.A.

???The negotiating team has been given a very clear mandate as to how to proceed and I am sure that shortly we will be re-engaging the Canadian government.

Of course, Barbados??? position has been [tabled] too at this meeting and it is not just the substance of negotiations but also the art of negotiating that is critical as well, and we have pledged our commitment to provide any human resource that is necessary to help these talks along.???

The work of the transportation commission; high costs and overall challenges of moving goods and people throughout the region as well as air travel issues were also deliberated.

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