Op-Ed: Canadian Sen. Don Meredith on the Canada-CARICOM Free Trade Deal

By: Caribbean Journal Staff - December 13, 2011

By Hon. Dr Don Meredith, Senator
Op-Ed Contributor

Canada and CARICOM are on the verge of forging new economic ties through a timely and well-needed free trade agreement.

As a Jamaican who immigrated to Canada and is now serving in the Senate, it is my priority to see that both countries realize their economic potential.

In the past, relations between Canada and members of the Caribbean Community focused heavily on aid, but through this free trade agreement, nations of the Caribbean can take important steps towards standing shoulder to shoulder with nations like Canada as equal partners.

In November, I attended the CARICOM-Canada Trade and Development Forum in Mississauga, Ontario. What I have seen is that members of the Caribbean diplomatic corps in Canada are ready to move this agreement forward. With recent leadership changes in the region, including my homeland of Jamaica, I believe the time is ripe for a new agreement that will bring sustainable economic development to the Caribbean and new opportunities for Canadian businesses.

Many people know me as a pastor and youth advocate, but I am also an entrepreneur. Twenty years ago, I started a company that is still in operation today. Through my own experience, I have seen that entrepreneurship plays a key role in economic development and job creation. Free trade with a market like Canada can create opportunities for both Canadian and Caribbean firms.

I will add that it is time that our youth in the region are provided with all the opportunities their leadership can provide them. This would lead to reducing unemployment rates and dealing with the gross under-employment that exists in the region. Canadian jobs will also be created in various sectors across the country.

The world is increasingly taking notice of the Caribbean and, as a result, firms in the region must increasingly think and compete globally. Not only do I urge firms in the region to do business in Canada, but I also urge firms in Canada, especially those owned by members of the Caribbean diaspora, to do business in the Caribbean. Many of us left home decades ago for a better life abroad, and now that we are seeing the fruit of those decisions, it is time to create jobs and other opportunities back home.

I have met with Canadian officials as well as CARICOM Heads of Mission and I believe, more than ever, that Canada is poised to help the Caribbean region transition to a more developed state. There is a great willingness in the private sector on both sides to see this move forward, and key partners in the region are eager to get the agreement done.

The Caribbean has been blessed with the best weather in the world, lush vegetation, bountiful natural resources, and a strong work ethic. After many years of setbacks, like colonization and slavery, Caribbean nations are emerging as centres of entrepreneurship and innovation.

There is a major shift going on in the world as we speak. The playing field is slowly being levelled and I am convinced that our greatest days are ahead for Canada and CARICOM. As once-powerful nations like Greece, Italy, Spain, and Japan face major challenges, now is the time for markets with natural synergies like Canada and the Caribbean to move forward and assert themselves on the world stage.

For the Caribbean, this time will require a balance of looking inward at the assets and resources that lie within the regional community and looking outward into the global community for opportunities to commercialize these assets and resources for the betterment of Caribbean people.

Not only is entrepreneurship key for the Caribbean Community, but unity and integration will be essential. A principle of life is that in the place of unity anything is possible. Now is the time to pool your resources, put your heads together, and present CARICOM to the world as a stable and fair place to do business.

Canada’s story is one from which the Caribbean can draw much inspiration. A group of separate British colonies found a way to come together as a single, larger and more prosperous unit. Canada paints a picture of what an integrated Caribbean Community can achieve economically and politically.

The history of commerce between Canada and Caribbean nations is rich and well-documented. In the banking sector, some Caribbean islands like the Bahamas, Bermuda, Barbados and Jamaica had branches of the Bank of Nova Scotia and the Royal Bank of Canada before some Canadian cities. These branches helped to facilitate the trading of fish, rum, sugar, cotton and spices.

In the food and beverage industry early Newfoundland fishermen used to trade salt fish for Jamaican rum, so much so that salt fish became a part of Jamaica’s national dish and rum became the traditional drink of Newfoundlanders.

New France, which included modern Québec, Acadia, Newfoundland and Hudson Bay, also conducted much trade with the French colonies in the Caribbean including Haiti, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Tobago, Saint Lucia, and Dominica, trading grain for sugar, coffee, and cotton.

Canada-CARICOM trade in banking, fish, rum and sugar has matured over the past century, but there are new opportunities before us in renewable energy, computing, clean technology and software development that have the potential to frame a profitable and vibrant relationship for the next century.

You and I, and those to whom we are connected, have the power to make this happen. If we do, the next one hundred years of commerce between Canada and the Caribbean will see more prosperity, more growth, and above all, mutual respect.

Hon. Dr Don Meredith is the Member of the Canadian Senate for Ontario.

Note: the opinions expressed in Caribbean Journal op-eds are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Caribbean Journal.

Popular Posts cape santa maria

The Best Caribbean Beach Resort You’ve Never Heard of 

There’s a boat just offshore called “Escape.”  It’s bobbing in some of the most brilliant, dynamic turquoise water I’ve ever seen, a few meters from a stretch of sand so bright and so white you have to squint to look […]

Marriott Is Opening Its New St Regis Resort In Aruba 

aruba st regis inside the restaurant with chairs

It was more than a decade ago that Marriott opened its first-ever Ritz-Carlton resort in the Dutch Caribbean: the Ritz-Carlton, Aruba, which at the time was the island’s first true five-star resort.  Fast forward to 2024, and Marriott is set […]

From All-Inclusive Resorts to Beaches, Travelers Are Falling in Love With Antigua and Barbuda

antigua barbuda frontier airlines the peninsula with sand

The plunge-pool villas at Hammock Cove. The historic streets of Nelson’s Dockyard. Pool days at Sheer Rocks. Unforgettable honeymoons. Vibrant meals of pepperpot and fungee. Beach bar hopping on the south coast. Endless serenity in Barbuda.  Travelers keep flocking to […]

Related Posts long island rum punch

Rum Journal: Forget Iced Tea. In The Bahamas, It’s Long Island Rum Punch. 

There’s not another soul at the bar. On far-off Long Island in Out Islands of The Bahamas, that’s not exactly a surprise.  But even with no one around to hear, Gerald still won’t reveal the secret.  I take a sip, […]

In Jamaica, the Travel Boom Continues 

ian fleming villa with beach and green trees

A tourism renaissance that began largely in the summer of 2021 in Jamaica is showing no signs of abating. That’s what the latest numbers show about the high-profile Caribbean destination.  So faro this year, Jamaica has welcomed 1.7 million visitors, […]

This Major Jamaica Resort Has Been Sold

holiday inn

A major resort in Jamaica’s tourism hub of Montego Bay has been sold, Caribbean Journal Invest has learned.  The resort is set on a prime stretch of beachfront in the heart of Montego Bay.  So what’s on the move?  The […]


Sign up for Caribbean Journal's free newsletter for a daily dose of beaches, hotels, rum and the best Caribbean travel information on the net.

No. Thank You