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Backing out

The Nation (Barbados) | 8/21/08.

Backing out

By Rickey Singh

BARBADOS HAS called for an urgent special meeting of Caribbean Community Heads of Government to deal with conflicting positions on the proposed signing on September 2 of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).

In a letter despatched yesterday to CARICOM’s chairman, Prime Minister Baldwin Spencer of Antigua and Barbuda, Prime Minister David Thompson pointed to what he views as "untenable inconsistencies" among member governments of the Community.

This development came within 36 hours of an announcement in Castries by Prime Minister Stephenson King that St Lucia had reviewed its position about signing on September 2 and wanted to delay that commitment.

Guyana and Grenada were aready against signing on that date. Belize is yet to state its position, while Trinidad and Tobago yesterday reaffirmed its commitment to stay with the declared signatories.

While neither the Barbados nor Antigua and Barbuda government issued an official statement, the Daily Nation was informed that Thompson’s letter to Spencer reflected "anger and disappointment" that with less than two weeks to go before the signing there was controversial initiatives and conflicts.

An August 4 letter sent to French President Nicolas Sarkozy by Spencer as CARICOM chairman for a meeting to discuss the EPA, as well as claimed lack of consultations are among reported contributing factors to prevailing tension and misunderstandings among some Heads of Government.

Consequently, according to informed reliable sources, Thompson has requested Spencer as CARICOM chairman to arrange an "urgent meeting" of Heads of Government to "settle, once and for all" the issue relating to the signing by CARIFORUM countries (CARICOM plus Dominican Republic) of the EPA.

He has assured Spencer of his government’s willingness to host the suggested special summit. No dates have been proposed, but for such a meeting to prove relevant it would have to take place during next week.

Meanwhile yesterday Prime Minister Patrick Manning was engaged in a private meeting with his Antiguan counterpart yesterday.

No details were given for the Manning-Spencer caucus, for which the Trinidadian leader had flown in a private jet. But sources said that it was related to last week’s meeting he had hosted in Port-of-Spain with Prime Ministers Tilman Thomas of Grenada; Ralph Gonsalves of St Vincent and the Grenadines and St Lucia’s Stephenson King on regional economic and political integration.

 source: The Nation