The Nation (Barbados) 7/16/08.
BANGO petitioning for better EPA deal
A LOCAL NON-GOVERMENTAL ORGANISATION (NGO) is seeking 5 000 signatures for a petition calling on Government to work out a better Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe.
The Barbados Association of NGOs (BANGO) said yesterday that Government should not allow itself to be pressured by the European Union (EU) into signing an EPA with major weaknesses.
"As it now stands, we are giving away too much in the EPA we have been negotiating," BANGO’s head Roosevelt King, charged.
"We are opening up too much of our market to Europe. This puts us in line to lose millions of dollars in revenue with the dismantling of trade barriers. We should not be giving away so much and getting back so little. We need to get a better deal."
King argued that the EPA would place greater emphasis on Bajan exports to make up for lost revenues, but he noted that Barbados had a history of not meeting quotas and of reducing exports.
The petition may be found at the online address: http://www.ammado.com/nonprofits/viewpetition.lnk/44586\67
The Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) has a similar petition for Caribbean governments at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/epa/index.html
"We are not going against Government with this petition," King commented. "We are in fact helping Government’s cause because there have been a lot of reservations about the EPAs."
He added: "Before France assumed the chair of the EU, they commissioned a report on the EPA, they hired a consultant to investigate and report back.
"That report is criticising how the EU has approached the EPAs. Some commentators are saying that the French may very well save us as they seek to ensure that the Caribbean territories of Martinique and Guadeloupe are not disfranchised."
King suggested the Barbados Government renegotiate the EPA and "take some time out" to look at the developmental aspect of the package to ensure that Barbadians are not disadvantaged.
"When you sign the petition, you are saying to our governments: you have our backing to sign a reasonable agreement that, while it may give away some things, does not open us up to mass destruction of our society," King said.
"Signing this petition does not open you to any form of discrimination or confrontation with anybody - as a matter of fact, it has the opposite effect.
"Signing this petition sends a message to the EU and empowers our Government with a mandate from its people which it can opt to use."
Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Business Chris Sinckler, said last month that the signing of the EPA will take place on July 23 at a ceremony hosted by Barbados.
He said a ministerial statement on the agreement will be delivered in Parliament prior to the signing, which will "complete the first process to bring the document (fully) into vogue and into domestic law".
He noted that the document would still have to be ratified by each participating country on the European Union and CARIFORUM (CARICOM and the Dominican Republic) sides. (TY)