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Implications of the Cariforum-EC EPA

Norman Girvan’s Website | January 10, 2008

Implications of the Cariforum-EC EPA

by Norman Girvan

The Cariforum-EC Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is more than just a trade
agreement: its scope embraces many subjects that have up to now been solely or mainly
within national and regional jurisdiction. As a legally binding international
instrument with elaborate implementation and enforcement provisions, it embodies a far
higher degree of supranational governance than the corresponding arrangements in the
Caribbean Community. It will, inevitably, condition the scope and content of future
agreements made between Caricom and other major trading partners and the region’s
stance in WTO negotiations. There is a sense, therefore, in which the EPA sets up a
framework for the future evolution of the economic, social and environmental policies of
Caricom states, both separately and collectively; and for the terms on which the region
engages with the global community.

In light of this it can be reasonably argued that that there should be full public disclosure
of the EPA texts, supported by ample explanation of its meaning and implications by the
CRNM and by regional governments and by provision of adequate opportunities for
public discussion and feedback. The principles of transparency and democratic
governance, to which both Caricom and European governments are committed, require
no less. Changes in constitutional arrangements of an equally far-reaching nature, such as
the adoption of Republican status and the establishment of a Caribbean Court of Justice,
have been the subject of public and Parliamentary debate in several countries of the
region prior to their adoption. In contrast the final stages of the EPA were rushed to
conclusion, with little opportunity for the public to become familiar with its provisions
and to deliberate on its implications.

Since the agreement was initialed on December 16, 2007, information on its contents
provided by official sources has been highly summary and selective. It often raises
‘more questions than answers’; and it is sometimes difficult to separate fact from
interpretation. This is not helpful to building public confidence that the agreement is truly
beneficial to the region and public cooperation in carrying out EPA obligations. It is to be
hoped that this situation will soon be rectified.

This article is based on information about the EPA that came to the author from a variety
of unofficial sources, supplemented by official press releases and news items. It focuses
on just a few features of the EPA that appear to have significant implications for national
and regional development, for the region’s autonomy in policy-making and for its ability
to fashion a CSME that responds to its own choices and priorities. I believe that the
issues that arise buttress the arguments for full disclosure and discussion of the EPA.

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 source: Norman Girvan