The Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and Cuba have signed a trade agreement aimed at improving trade relations between Havana and the 15-member regional grouping.
The accord was signed during the 45th meeting of the Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED) that ends on Friday.
“The signing of this protocol is critical to that process. The region, therefore, welcomes the formal signing of the protocol and looks forward to the dynamism in trade which it heralds,” a CARICOM Secretariat statement noted.
This is the second trade agreement between the parties with the first having been signed in 2000.
The new accord, signed by CARICOM Secretary-General, Irwin LaRocque and Cuba’s Ambassador to CARICOM, Julio César González, seeks to expand the preferential market access into each other’s market and signals the prospects for even stronger and more profound trade and economic ties.
According to the CARICOM Secretariat, the protocol is a further demonstration of the commitment of both sides in advancing the trade and economic relationship that was established many years ago, providing possibilities for investment.
The agreement also seeks to imbue in the CARICOM private sector, in particular, an urgency to access the Cuban market utilising the preferences provided under the original agreement itself.
The agreement offers “expanded preferential market access, notably, duty-free access, offered by Cuba to CARICOM countries on a list of approximately 326 items which include meat, fish, dairy produce, fruits and vegetables, beer, rum, cement, soaps, articles of apparel and clothing.
Approximately 50 items on which immediate duty-free access will be granted and a list of22 items on which differentiated treatment, including phased reduction of duty, which CAR1COM more developed countries will grant to Cuba.
Products included in the CARICOM duty-free offer to Cuba are fish, pharmaceutical products, fertilisers, articles of iron and steel, electrical machinery and equipment and parts thereof.
The CARICOM Secretariat noted that having regard to the fact that CARICOM already has an existing Trade and Economic Cooperation Agreement with Cuba, it would be in the interest of both parties to ensure that the expansion of preferential access into each other’s market, provided for under the second protocol to the agreement.
CARICOM said it is committed to further deepening and strengthening its partnership with Cuba as new opportunities are sought to expand its trade and investment relationship.