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Barbados government to review EPA, Barbados

Barbados government to review EPA

22 February 2008

BRIDGETOWN, Barbados - Barbados’ Prime Minister has expressed reservations about the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which CARICOM will sign with Europe in April, and he says he’s given instructions for his government to review the deal.

David Thompson, speaking in Trinidad and Tobago where he ended an official two-day visit on Thursday, said while his new administration supports the overall objective, there are some specific concerns.

He said before he attends the CARICOM inter-sessional summit in March, he wants to take another look at the new agreement which will see the Caribbean having to open up almost 90 per cent of its market to a number of duty free imports from the European Union over a 25-year period.

"I have asked the Minister of Foreign Affairs for a review of it and I believe I should have that in my hands certainly before going to the CARICOM inter-sessional meeting and I believe at that time I should be able to give a firm indication of Barbados’ position," he said.

That Minister, Christopher Sinckler was up until his election to parliament as part of a winning Democratic Labour Party (DLP) team led by Thompson on January 15th, Coordinator of the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) - a group of regional non-governmental organisations. As head of that body he criticised regional governments for what he said was a rushed agreement.

Meantime, Prime Minister Patrick Manning has given more support to the EPA than his Barbadian counterpart, suggesting that it was the region’s best option.

"We believe that the agreement that has been arrived at was the best that was possible in all the circumstances and on that basis we are supporting the EPA," he said.

"We are having a view of it ourselves just to be sure that’s the position that we are adopting, but because of the process through which it has gone, we are quite happy with what has emerged in it," Manning added.

Barbados is expected to host the signing ceremony. Despite his government’s reservations about the agreement, Thompson said it has already assured the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) that it would not go back on that commitment.