The Nation, Barbados
7 August 2008
By Stacey Russell
They failed us!
That’s what governments, intellectuals and trade unions in CARIFORUM (CARICOM and the Dominican Republic) who negotiated the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU) did to this region, says James Paul, of the Barbados Agricultural Society (BAS).
Paul, a Government backbencher and chief executive officer of BAS, yesterday chastised regional stakeholders responsible for brokering the deal.
He was speaking at a CARIFORUM-EU EPA review meeting hosted by the Barbados Manufacturers’ Association (BMA) at Sherbourne Conference Centre.
The Member of Parliament for St Michael West Central urged participants to "understand that in this whole negotiation process our governments failed us, our intellectuals failed us and our unions failed us because we were prepared to sit down and listen to the garbage coming out of Europe about free trade without really examining what they were doing".
He said the EU continued to heavily subsidise their agricultural sector, while regional governments were tight-fisted with their farmers.
"We seem to have a kind of reluctance on the part of the state to help out ailing industries, flagship industries that make a difference to our economies.
"We keep on reading the script that Europeans signed us; they tell us don’t subsidise."
During the forum that featured BMA president James Husbands, vice-president of the Jamaica Manufacturers’ Association, Ryan Peralto, and trade policy specialist of the Trinidad and Tobago Manufacturers’ Association, Ramesh Ramdeem, Paul stressed: "The Europeans, I understand, owe us nothing, but we owe ourselves something in terms of trying to define the region in a manner that we see fit.
"And that is why I am one of the persons that shun this deal. We were basically given a bad deal by our negotiators because what we sought to do was to appease Europeans’ idea of development without [pushing] our own model of development."
The EPA between the two regions has been scheduled for official sign-off on September 2 in Barbados, but Paul maintained that the pact was a lopsided one since the EU had greater advantage with a market to produce volumes that CARIFORUM could not compete with.