Just as the European Union was sold to Europeans as a trade agreement even though it was actually a political union, so it has been sold again, this time to the islands of the Caribbean.
President Bharrat Jagdeo has taken another jab at the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM). This time he is adamant that it cannot speak for Guyana at upcoming trade talks with Canada.
Making hemispheric Economic Integration work for all. This is one of the aspirations spelled out in the report of the Partnership for the Americas Commission, a grouping of leaders from across Latin America and the Caribbean, which is linked to the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
The country has no faith in CARICOM’s ability to either address pending agreements or to be the implementing authority for the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA)
As the Economic Partnership Agreement “EPA Implementation Brainstorming Meeting”, continued yesterday, it was made clear that Antigua and Barbuda needed to establish a “services coalition”.
The free trade agreements that the US and the European Union “propose” to Latin America and the Caribbean include waiving sovereign control on food flows. The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization admits that although food production increased in the region, the number of people suffering hunger also did.
Setting aside the character assassination, suggestions that Caribbean heads had agreed a flawed document, letters questioning the role of senior figures and damaging inter-institutional rivalry, what is clear is that a more fundamental philosophical divide has emerged in the context of the EPA over the direction in which the region and its integration process is headed.
After opting out of Wednesday’s signing, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo now says the country is ready to take forward the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe.
The signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the CARIFORUM Group - Caribbean Community states and the Dominican Republic - went ahead as planned. However, Guyana and Haiti, which had both expressed reservations about sections of the agreement, did not attend the signing ceremony in Barbados.
The many ploys that the European Commission has used to bulldoze Caribbean countries into signing the Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union are coming to light.
It is imperative to continue with the mobilization so that Haiti remains part of the growing group which rejects the pressure being applied by the European Union for CARIFORUM members to sign the EPA at the next meeting, scheduled for 15 October in Barbados.
The heated debates in the Caribbean surrounding this region’s involvement in an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe and the upcoming sixth summit of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries in Ghana where similar issues will be debated, brings to memory the words of Ethiopian Emperor Haile Selassie who saw a long time ago the danger the European union — then the European Common Market — would pose for Africa.
Thirteen of the 15 Member States indicated their readiness to sign the Agreement at the Third Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of CARIFORUM held at the Sherbourne Centre, Barbados on Wednesday. Haiti indicated that there were reservations which had to be cleared at the Presidential level before signature of the document, while Guyana stated that it was not in a position to sign the EPA.
While it has been asserted that failure to conclude the agreement within the timeframe dictated by the E.C. would threaten Caribbean exports to Europe, we feel that our leaders should not be constrained to pursue a course of action which could prove to be adverse to our people in the long run.
To the man in the street, it seems that the EPA, and the debate on it, have split Caricom governments, and that the prospects for their arriving at some harmonious agreement at this week’s Caricom meeting are not good.
Church leaders in the Caribbean have urged regional governments to reject the Economic Partnership Agreement proposed by the European Union, saying the terms of the treaty would harm the economy, marginalize the poor, and undermine the Caribbean’s democratic institutions.
The Cariforum Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was initialled last December under extreme pressure of time and the threat of imposition of punitive tariffs on Caribbean exports in European Union (EU) markets. In the past nine months this 1,000 plus- page agreement has been examined closely, and found wanting in several respects. Every effort needs to be made to fix the problematic features before the agreement is legally cast in stone.
Senior representatives of the government, the opposition political parties, the trade union movement, the private sector, religious bodies and other non-governmental organizations unanimously called on regional leaders not to sign it in its present form.
As matters stand, Trinidad, Jamaica, Barbados, the Dominican Republic, Belize, The Bahamas and St Vincent have said that they want to sign; St Lucia says it will not; Guyana is holding a public consultation; Grenada wants more time; and there is silence from almost all other Cariforum states. Meanwhile, some opposition parties have publicly disassociated themselves, most notably, in Jamaica and Antigua.
Latin American businessmen have long been lobbying for free trade agreements with the EU.