Call to change ’deadline’ on EPA deal with Europe

jamaica Observer | 16 November 2007

Call to change ’deadline’ on EPA deal with Europe

Rickey Singh

Bridgetown, Barbados — Some leading Caribbean nationals have made a stirring plea to Caribbean Community Heads of Government to speedily move for postponement of the year-end deadline given by the European Union for this region to sign an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The appeal, outlined in an "Open Letter on the EPA," has been sent directly to Barbados Prime Minister Owen Arthur as current chairman of Caricom, and Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding in his capacity as head of the Community’s Prime Ministerial Subcommittee on External Negotiations.

The one-page "open letter", released yesterday (Thursday) was copied to Dame Billie Miller, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade of Barbados, who chairs EPA negotiations for the Caribbean Forum (CARICOM plus Dominican Republic); Director General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), Richard Bernal; as well as Secretary General of Caricom, Edwin Carrington, who has been requested to foward copies to all other Heads of Government.

Signatories to the letter, who also have requested that the draft EPA be made public in the Caribbean’s best interest, ahead of conclusive negotiations, are: Havelock Brewster, Honorary Professor of the Sir Arthur Lewis Institute of Social and Economic Research of the University of the West Indies and Senior Associate of the CRNM; Norman Girvan, Professorial Research Fellow, UWI’s Institute of International Relations, and also a Senior Associate of the CRNM; Judith Wedderburn of the Jamaica-based Coalition for Community Participation in Governance and well-known advocate of the region’s non-governmental organisations; and James Moss-Solomon, current President of the Caribbean Business Council and former President of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC), who has signed in his personal capacity as "businessman".

In their letter the signatories said they believe that every effort should be made, "as a matter of urgency, at the highest political level, to initiate action towards a postponement of the December 31, 2007, deadline for the signing of the EPA by directly alerting the World Trade Organisation (WTO), as well as by direct intervention with individual EU states, the EU parliament and other concerned interests in Europe..."

The signatories pledged their availability for further discussions with the "appropriate authorities and with all stakeholders" to ensure fullest possible understanding of the implications of the agreement in its current draft form, and promised to work towards its improvement as "an effective instrument of sustainable development".

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