Prime Minister Stephen Harper today announced new initiatives aimed at strengthening Canada’s historic relationships with members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). These initiatives will build new and forward-looking partnerships and promote regional integration through mutually supportive policies.
Support for Trade Competitiveness, Disaster Risk Management and Leadership Development
New regional programming includes three new initiatives aimed at strengthening democratic governance, economic renewal, and education and leadership programs:
The Trade Competitiveness Program will support the implementation of the CARICOM Single Market Economy, facilitate internal trade within the region, and improve the region’s ability to negotiate and implement international trade agreements.
The Disaster Risk Management Program will increase the capacity of governments and local communities to manage natural disasters, such as hurricanes and flooding, and reduce their impact on the people of the region. This funding is in addition to Canada’s previously announced support for the World Bank-led Caribbean Catastrophe Risk Insurance Fund.
The Leadership Development Program will help the region develop a new generation of leaders in both the public and private sectors, providing them with skills to resolve complex governance, economic and social issues, and advance the values of gender equality, human rights, equity and democracy. The program will also support more transparent, accountable and effective public sector management.
Canada has allocated $600 million over 10 years for this new regional programming, through the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA). This funding includes $14.5 million for the Caribbean Community Trade Competitiveness Program, $20 million for the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Program and $20 million for the Caribbean Institutional Leadership Development Program.
The funding for the Caribbean Disaster Risk Management Program is in addition to the $20 million previously announced by Canada for the Catastrophe Risk Insurance Fund.
Canada-Caribbean Community Leadership Scholarships
One hundred short-term (six months) research exchange scholarships and 15 split-site scholarships (six months in Canada, six months in the Caribbean) per year, over 10 years for students at the college and university levels. These scholarships will focus on studies in economic and trade policy, good governance, rule of law, democratic development and other disciplines tailored to the needs of Caribbean countries.
Canada-Caribbean Community Virtual University
One hundred virtual-exchange scholarships per year, over 10 years. Provided through the Canada-Caribbean Community Virtual University initiative, these scholarships will provide distance learning opportunities—in areas such as teacher education, information technology and hospitality management—for individuals who may not otherwise be in a position to pursue higher studies.
Canada has allocated $17 million for the Canada-Caribbean Community Scholarships initiative.
2008 Canada-CARICOM Leaders’ Summit
In support of Canada's vision of a dynamic, forward-looking partnership with the Caribbean region, Prime Minister Harper offered to host a Canada-CARICOM Summit in 2008. This invitation underscores Canada's commitment to its Americas strategy and strengthening its relationship, through increased program support and interaction, with CARICOM countries.
Computer Equipment and Information Technology Training
Canada will sponsor information-technology training, including advanced-level computer security courses, to several CARICOM member states over the next three years. The provision of training as well as computer equipment will support capacity building in regional security and defence organizations.
Canada has allocated $440,000 to support this training.
Canada-CARICOM Free Trade Agreement Negotiations
Canada announced the launch of negotiations leading to a free-trade agreement (FTA) between Canada and CARICOM. An FTA would be an important tool in strengthening Canada's commercial ties with the region and contributing to the shared goal of facilitating development through economic integration within the Western Hemisphere. The negotiations will also provide a platform for dialogue and cooperation on a broad range of issues, including labour and the environment.
A comprehensive FTA with CARICOM has the potential to create opportunities for Canadian exporters—in sectors such as industrial goods, agriculture and agri-food, and fish and seafood—as well as a range of Canadian investors, and providers of professional and financial services.
An FTA would generate economic benefits for both Canada and the countries of the Caribbean Community by providing preferential access for our goods and services in each other's markets, and a more secure and predictable business environment.
The Government will continue to consult closely with stakeholders to ensure that their interests are taken into account throughout the negotiations.
CARICOM members include: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, Saint Lucia, St. Kits and Nevis, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago, and Montserrat.