30 June 2008
Economic Partnerships Matter
We are told that the fundamental principles and objectives of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM states are defined by the Cotonou Agreement. We are advised that this agreement seeks to create sustainable development of the states, their smooth and gradual integration in the world market, and eradication of poverty.
The word we hear is that - as a consequence - sustainable growth will be enhanced, production and supply capacity increased and structural processing and economic diversification of ACP states promoted, while supporting regional integration.
As crucially, the EPA, which was initialed by the parties in Barbados on December 16 of last year, is expected to result in, among other things, predictability in market access into the European Union, the world’s largest import spending market for goods and services.
This is the promise.
We are guided - in part at least - by the old notion that indicates ‘nothing ventured, nothing gained.’ As such, our people are advised that they should launch out into the deep.
For purpose of clarification, note that this deal is making waves throughout the region. We are also being told that, "As CARIFORUM countries prepare to sign and implement an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has emphasized that Jamaica must make every effort to be first in line with projects to take advantage of assistance under the agreement."
Economic partnerships do matter.
This remains one of those so-called ‘brute’ facts of life in today’s world.
Such agreements can do much to assist small island developing states such as The Bahamas - as they pull themselves up and out of the mire of poverty.
So it is today that we take note of some of the brouhaha that has surrounded the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement between this country, some of its sister countries in the region and the European Community, one of the world’s largest trading blocs.
In doing so, The Bahamas will sign on to this agreement for the simple reason that it has little choice in the matter. Indeed, there is a strong case to be made for the suggestion that were we even to try opting out, we would be doing little more than biting off our nose to spite our face.
By way of definition, an economic partnership agreement or EPA is an instrument of trade partnership required by the Cotonou Agreement to replace the trade component of Lomé IV. It is expected that it will help ACP countries, including CARIFORUM, to reduce poverty and achieve economic growth through sustainable trade with Europe.
As regards CARIFORUM, it is an abbreviation of Caribbean Forum, the Caribbean Group of States which are Members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States. These countries include the independent States of the Caribbean Community, Cuba and the Dominican Republic.
It is important to note that in the EPA negotiations, Cuba, though an ACP member from the Caribbean Group, is not party to the Cotonou Agreement, and therefore has not participated in the EPA negotiations.
We suspect that Bahamians will - in time - come to the realization that this is the way to go.
In the meanwhile, our people would be well-advised to note that some of their Caribbean counterparts - with Jamaica playing a leading role - are already trying to figure out how they might derive maximum benefit for their people.
He underscores what continues to be the main point that people in The Bahamas should note, know and fully understand: "The Caribbean is the first and only region to have signed a comprehensive EPA agreement with the European Union. It should be in the interest of the European Union as well as CARICOM to make sure that this works effectively."
As regards possible benefits, note that Dr. Baugh says that, "... we are hoping that under EPA trade and other facilities provided for the development of capacity - to modernize our factories, to build competencies, to modernize our equipment and to make sure that we are in a position to expand and diversify our exports - that this will be treated properly..."
The Minister also said this was the only way that Jamaica and CARIFORUM as a whole, could know for certain that the agreement is truly beneficial and a catalyst for development.
"My greatest fear is that if we continue to lament and dwell on what the detractors are saying, our partners in CARIFORUM will quietly get their houses in order, and ready themselves to take advantage of this agreement. And before we know it, they will run ahead of us and take up the benefits envisioned under the Agreement," the Deputy Prime Minister said.
We have a similar fear for the Bahamian people.