CARIFORUM AGREES TO SIGN EPA
Monday, 15 September 2008
The Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) has agreed to a date in October to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU).
The actual date is to be finalised after discussion with the EU but it is scheduled to be in time to ensure provisional application by 31 October 2008. Thirteen of the 15 Member States indicated their readiness to sign the Agreement at the Third Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of CARIFORUM held at the Sherbourne Centre, Barbados on Wednesday. Haiti, which was represented at Ambassadorial level, indicated that there were reservations which had to be cleared at the Presidential level before signature of the document, while Guyana stated that it was not in a position to sign the EPA.
The Leaders agreed that a small committee comprising of the Prime Ministers of Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and Jamaica as well as the Secretary-General of CARIFORUM, His Excellency Edwin Carrington would iron out the details regarding the arrangements for the signing ceremony to be held in Barbados.
The EPA was initialled last December in Barbados and replaces the trade provisions of the Cotonou Agreement which expired at the end of 2007. The EPA seeks to establish a new trading arrangement between the EU and CARIFORUM countries which is compatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO). CARIFORUM consists of the 14 independent states of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) as well as Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
Prime Minister of Jamaica, the Honourable Bruce Golding told a press conference following the meeting that the Region might not have got all that it wanted out of the negotiations but it was the best possible outcome that could be obtained given the new multilateral trading framework globally.
Mr Golding said it was not in the interest of the Region not to sign as it would be injurious to the interest of the citizens. He said that he and his colleague Heads of Government would continue to discuss with His Excellency Bharrat Jagdeo, the President of Guyana, the concerns which he expressed during the one-day meeting with a view to having Guyana be a signatory to the EPA at the earliest opportunity.
Prime Minister of Barbados the Honourable David Thompson characterised the meeting as productive in its search to arrive at a common position on concerns surrounding the Agreement. He said the challenge now was to extract the opportunities and seize the advantages presented by the EPA. In his view he saw Guyana as one of the countries which could benefit most from the Agreement.
In response to a question, Mr Golding stated that the EPA did not undermine the viability of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy but strengthened it given its provisions. He noted that the Agreement would force the Region to be more competitive and achieving this internal competitiveness would serve the Region well not only in the context of the EPA but in other trading relations.
The Jamaican Prime Minister complimented the CARICOM Secretariat for producing a comprehensive and detailed plan for implementation of the EPA, which he said was the most urgent requirement of the Region. He also congratulated the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) for its role in negotiating the EPA.