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6681: Trade issues concerning Haiti (fwd)
Trade issues to dominate Caricom/Canada summit
MONTEGO BAY, Jamaica, Jan 18 (Reuters) - Trade, crime and drugs were at the
top of the agenda on Thursday as Caribbean Community leaders gathered in
Jamaica for talks with Canadian Prime Minister Jean Chretien.
The sixth Caribbean Community and Common Market/Canada summit, delayed from
last fall by the death of former Canadian Prime Minister Pierre Trudeau, was
considered a critical meeting in advance of the Summit of the Americas
scheduled in Canada in April.
Eleven Caricom leaders were expected in the Jamaica resort town for two days
of talks centered on the Free Trade Area of the Americans (FTAA), crime and
drug trafficking in the Caribbean basin and a multilateral initiative on
offshore financial centers, a critical business for the tiny nations of the
Many small Caribbean states have repeatedly expressed concerns about the
impact on their fragile economies of lowered tariffs envisioned by the
agreement to establish the FTAA taken at the 1994 Summit of the Americas.
"There is also the issue of whether we can bring forward the time frame (for
implementing the FTAA) from 2005 to some earlier date, possibly 2003," said
Jamaica's Foreign Trade Minister Anthony Hylton. "We believe that is not in
the interest of Caricom."
The Caribbean Community, a regional trade grouping of 15 Caribbean countries
and territories, mostly former British colonies, considers Canada one of its
leading allies among developed nations.
Canada and the Caribbean Community have long-standing trade ties. In 1999,
Trinidad and Tobago's exports to Canada totaled C$73.7 million (US$49.2
million); from Barbados to Canada C$10.7 million (US$7.2 million); from
Jamaica, C$201.1 million (US$134 million).
Caribbean leaders were also expected to raise the issue of rising crime in
the islands and the growing drug trade. South American cartels use Caribbean
countries -- particularly Haiti in recent years -- as transshipment points
for U.S.-bound cargoes of cocaine and heroin.
The prime minister of Haiti, Jacques Eduoard Alexis, and Dominican Republic
President Hipolito Mejia were also expected to attend the Montego Bay
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