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Caricom sees EU trade deal by end of June - minister


Caricom sees EU trade deal by end of June - minister

9 April 2008

By Wendell Roelf

CAPE TOWN (Reuters) - The Caribbean region expects to sign a new trade agreement with the European Union by the end of June, Trinidad and Tobago’s trade and industry minister said on Tuesday.

"We are looking at June 30th. That’s the time we are working towards," Trade and Industry Minister Keith Rowley told Reuters at a trade event in Cape Town organised by the Commonwealth Secretariat. "By and large we think we have got a decent arrangement, but its not perfect," Rowley said.

The 15-member Caribbean Community (Caricom) is expected to become the first region to adopt economic parternship agreements (EPA) between the EU and nearly 80 countries of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group.

The EPAs replace Europe’s long-standing preferential trade arrangements with the ACP countries, which are no longer protected by a World Trade Organisation waiver that expired at the end of last year.

The new deals are aimed at promoting sustainable development, reducing poverty and fostering regional integration, but concerns about the impact of opening up markets and dropping trade preferences remain a source of disagreement.

Many poor countries, especially in Africa, have called on the EU to re-think plans for the new trade agreements out of concern they will damage local economies and further impoverish the developing world.

African economic powerhouse South Africa and oil-rich Nigeria are among the nations that have refused to sign.

Rowley said there was consensus within the Caricom region, which includes the former British Caribbean colonies, Haiti, the Dominican Republic and Suriname, on the need for a deal with the EU, but he added that stumbling blocks remained.