Trinidad & Tobago Express | Saturday, March 8th 2008
Caricom, EU to sign EPA in June
Caribbean Community (Caricom) Governments and the European Union will not be signing the controversial Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in April, as scheduled.
They will instead sign the EPA two months later, Trade and Industry Minister Dr Keith Rowley said here yesterday at the Sheraton Hotel in Nassau, after the opening ceremony of the 19th Inter-Sessional Meeting of the Caricom Heads of Government Conference.
The EPA is a trade agreement between the EU and 78 African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) member countries, including the 15 Caricom member states, and is meant to create more open markets on both sides.
"There has been a little slippage with respect to the date for the signing of the EPA with the European Union... that’s now pushed back down towards June because the technical people and the Secretariat had some more work to do in preparing the final document," Rowley said.
Rowley had been attending a meeting of the Caricom Council for Trade and Economic Development (COTED), which addressed the EPA in great detail.
He said the final document "is now available" and the Caricom Secretariat "has a few weeks to get ready".
The EPA would allow exporters from ACP countries to have immediate secure duty-free, quota-free access to EU markets for almost all products, with the exception of rice and sugar.
The ACP member states, however, have a 15- to 25-year period to liberalise their markets to EU goods and services.
"So we have a lot of time in most instances to prepare to trade with the competition," Rowley said.
During yesterday’s Inter-Sessional meeting opening ceremony, Caricom secretary general Edwin Carrington spoke of the importance of the negotiations for the EPA.
"We hope that the lessons learnt in that negotiation would strengthen us, as we move towards upcoming new negotiations," Carrington said.
Rowley also dismissed the concerns raised by some experts that the agreement is a threat to the sovereignty of ACP member states like Trinidad and Tobago.
"That is not a fair position and it is not a question of sovereignty at all. Sovereignty remains with all the states involved. It is a negotiation where you agree to share your market and we agreed to give up certain things and got certain things, so did the other side," Rowley said.