Mr. Trudeau will join Commonwealth Secretary General, Baroness Patricia Scotland as special guests at this year’s 31st Inter-sessional Conference of Heads of Government of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), which will take place from February 18 to 19 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.
Trudeau’s visit is not as altruistic as it appears. One of the main reasons for his visit to the biannual meeting of CARICOM, is to bolster his efforts to secure votes in the Caribbean for Canada's bid for a seat on the United Nations Security Council where he is expected to receive a warm — if guarded — response.
Canada has traditionally had close ties to CARICOM thanks to their shared British and French colonial pasts and the provision of millions of dollars in Canadian foreign aid after many of those countries gained independence in the 1960s, '70s and early '80s.
Canada is home to a significant number of CARICOM’s diaspora; it is a major source of tourists to the region; and Canadian private sector investment in the region in a variety of industries, including banking, tourism and mining, is huge -- direct investment is in excess of US$75 billion, and trade in services is roughly US$3 billion annually.
However, repeated attempts between CARICOM and Canada to cement a Free Trade Agreement since 2007 have all ended without result after some six rounds of negotiations.
It’s understood that Canada wants CARICOM governments to commit to removing tariffs on Canadian goods imported into the community’s markets; grant more binding protection for Canadian investment into wider areas of Caribbean economies; agree on rules that determine the true origin of products; and allow competition from Canadian companies to bid for projects in the region.
CARICOM on the other hand, wants specific commitment in the Free Trade Agreement to development assistance over a predictable period, and Canada has been reluctant to include such a commitment in the agreement as it does not want to set a precedent for FTAs with other countries with which Canada is also negotiating.
The big question therefore, is, in exchange for the 15 member CARICOM support for Canada’s Security Council bid, what will be the “quid pro quo”?
This, according to experts, could include restarting trade talks or money to help them deal with the impacts of climate change, given the region's particular vulnerabilities to its effects or the reflow Canadian aid to the Region, most of which has dried up over the past decade.
While in Barbados, Prime Minister Trudeau will hold private talks with Prime Minister Mia Amor Mottley and CARICOM Secretary General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, and engage in bilateral discussions with members of Cabinet.
Prime Ministers Mottley and Trudeau will symbolically solidify the bonds of friendship when they deliver remarks and plant two Mahogany trees at the National Botanical Gardens, Waterford. A plaque will be unveiled to commemorate the occasion.
Later that evening, Prime Minister Trudeau will attend a dinner with CARICOM Heads of Government.
The following day, Tuesday, February 18, the Canadian leader will attend the Opening Session and Plenary of the CARICOM Summit.
Later in the afternoon, both Mr. Trudeau and CARICOM Chairman, Prime Minister Mia Mottley will host a post lunch question and answer session with the media in the north of the island.
Prime Minister Trudeau will leave the island on Tuesday evening for Ottawa.
- Countries: CARICOM