Tuesday, 24 April 2012 02:30
By caribarena news
Antigua St John's - As part of efforts to increase awareness of stakeholders and industry practitioners about the negotiating issues relating to cultural co-operation and the proposed nexus between trade, innovation, and investment regarding the CARICOM-Canada Trade Agreement, the Division of Trade, Industry and Commerce hosted a one-day consultation seminar with service industry representatives to tackle the subject.
The conference, held on Monday at the City View Hotel, was held in collaboration with the OECS Secretariat with a mission that seeks to give effect to Article 3(j) of the Protocol to the Revised Treaty of Basseterre establishing the OECS Economic Union. This requires that OECS Member States adopt harmonized approaches in negotiations with third parties for free trade agreements.
Generating feedback from public and private sector stakeholders on key issues was a focus of the consultation, which discussed the implications of the planned documented proposals.
Participants for the event were invited directly and selected through the national service industry directory, compiled with information from the relevant ministries of government.
Present at the consultation was Minister of State within the Ministry of Legal Affairs Joanne Massiah, who reminded the gathering that Antigua and the rest of CARICOM has enjoyed a time-honoured trading and bilateral relationship with Canada, which is currently governed by the CARIBCAN Agreement that is set to expire at the end of 2013. The CARICOM-Canada Trade Agreement will replace the CARIBCAN treaty.
She said the new agreement is expected to cover all facets of trade between the Caribbean and Canada, including investment and economic opportunities, goods, services, technical innovation, and cultural co-operation and others, and Antigua is poised to benefit notably from these developments.
“I am pleased to see and welcome representatives from the private sector," the senator said. "I commend you highly for your participation and take the opportunity to remind you of the adage that governments do not trade but private firms do."
She added that, as a government Antigua and the rest of the OECS “must take responsibility” for the critical information gathered between the public and private sectors.
“Our technicians and politician must intensify their efforts with respect to public education and information dissemination by using non-traditional ways of communication and consultation prior to signing and subsequent to the execution of the agreement, given that they are designed to bring benefits to the people and citizens directly," she said.
Deloris Francis, programme officer of trade in the OECS Secretariat, said her office fully supported convening of the meeting in Antigua. The general consultations involve national ministries of trade from across the OECS, the wide cross section of national stakeholders and industry practitioners in the areas of culture and innovation.
“The OECS Secretariat acknowledges that the most fundamental challenges for our member states from the continuing globalization and liberalization of trade is the imperative to restructure and adjust the socio-economic environment to meet the requirements of international competitiveness in the production of and trade in, goods, and services,” she said.
It is recognised and accepted by the OECS heads of government, she said, that the service sector represents a critical economic vector for advancing the sustainable economic development of the region, and a co-ordinated approach on the way forward is essential.
“… I wish to highlight outcomes of work already completed indicating the lack of development planning and holistic approach to development of the cultural industry; the international economic and political environment which is rapidly evolving and it is becoming more difficult and competitive for small island developing states such as ours, and the high cost of training for the cultural sector…” she said.
She pointed out that the challenge for the gathering was to examine how the provisions of the draft negotiating text can best ensure that the strategic priority and vision for the development of the OECS cultural industry and innovative systems are secured.
In the meantime Malcolm Spence, senior co-ordinator of Intellectual Property, Science, and Technology Issues in the CARICOM Secretariat Office of Trade Negotiations (OTN), told participants that the department was ready to offer any support it could, and answer whatever questions might arise in the process.The Consultation
The consultation provided participants with an overview of the CARICOM-Canada negotiations of a Trade and Development Agreement, through presentations on the scope and objectives of the negotiations, along with an update on the status of the negotiations.
It also sought to identify areas of particular concern and interests to OECS that would be taken into account in the negotiations; and obtained to provide an opportunity for wider spectrum of public and private sector participation in the negotiating process.
A trade and innovation segment of the talks provided an insight into the value of innovation in the competitive global trade environment and the Canadians’ innovative systems and development. A revised draft of the CARICOM Proposal on Trade and Innovation was also discussed, along with Canada’s draft chapter on Intellectual Property.
Further to that was a session on cultural co-operation, which offered context for the development of text for negotiating guidelines and regional initiatives on culture. Key elements of the OTN draft text on cultural co-operation also came into focus.
In the end, a summary of the recommendations and areas of future work was compiled.