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Guyana stakeholders ’roundly condemn’ Cariforum EPA

Guyana International Convention Center, Georgetown
5 September 2008



Stakeholders in Guyana today roundly condemned the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) initialed last December by the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) and the European Commission.

Senior representatives of the government, the opposition political parties, the trade union movement, the private sector, religious bodies and other non-governmental organizations unanimously called on regional leaders not to sign it in its present form.

They expressed particular concern about the implications of the EPA for the Caribbean Single Market and Economy.

Karl Falkenberg, the EU chief negotiator and Henry Gill, the head of the CRNM participated in the National Consultations which were called by President Bharrat Jagdeo and in which he played a prominent role.

The stakeholders expressed their deep concern that their meeting took place in an environment in which all CARIFORUM countries have been threatened by the EU with the application of higher tariffs on their principal exports into the European Union unless they signed the EPA.

They voiced their strong disappointment over many aspects of the EPA, but particularly over the inclusion in it of the so-called “Singapore issues” — investment, competition and government procurement — which remain contentious and unsettled in the World Trade Organisation. They also expressed deep concern over the fracture of ACP solidarity which has been a beneficial hallmark to the Caribbean in its trade relations with the EU.

The meeting was affronted when Falkenberg indicated that the EU expects the Guyana government and other Caribbean governments to sign the agreement without further discussion despite the fact that, until the EPA was initialed, there was no factual basis for consultation with stakeholders.

Stakeholders were also deeply disturbed that the EU representative would not accept a proposal from President Jagdeo that Guyana would sign a “goods only” agreement that was fully compatible with WTO requirements while negotiations continue on trade in services and the “Singapore Issues”. Several overseas and local trade experts at the meeting were adamant that for the EPA to be compatible with WTO requirements, only a “goods” agreement was necessary.

It was emphasized that it is only the Caribbean that has initialed a full EPA. Other regions and countries have initialed “goods only” agreements, and many others are still negotiating with the EU.

The meeting collectively mandated President Jagdeo to advise CARICOM Heads of Government at their meeting on September 10th that Guyana is willing to sign a “goods only” agreement now which would allow the EPA to be signed with enough time to renegotiate its development aspects, the “Singapore issues” and services which offer little real opportunities to Caribbean businesses but open the regional market to European service providers.

The meeting noted that an ACP Summit will be held on October 2 and 3 in Ghana and expressed alarm at the prospect of the Caribbean signing a full EPA virtually on the eve of an ACP Summit called to discuss the EPA among other issues. The stakeholders urged President Jagdeo to send a high level delegation to the ACP Summit to exchange views with ACP partners on the issues that have arisen in the Caribbean and other regions of the ACP group on the EPA negotiations.

Stakeholders expressed their gratitude to the invited panelists who were: Dr Roger Hosein, Ms Emily Jones, Mrs Shantal Munro-Knight, Sir Ronald Sanders, Dr Christopher Stevens, Sir Shridath Ramphal and Professor Clive Thomas.

 source: Norman Girvan