Trinidad & Tobago Express | 12 November 2007
’Make accord with EU public’
Rickey Singh Bridgetown
As negotiations intensify for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean and European Union before year end, there are now growing calls for the "draft" accord to be made public before the region’s governments sign on to such a deal.
Among those who feel this position should be "seriously and urgently pursued" are two of the region’s highly respected economists, Dr Norman Girvan and Dr Havelock Brewster, both of whom have served as advisers to regional governments.
Girvan, author of the CARICOM-approved Report on A Single Economy and Single Development Vision, thinks that representatives of various stakeholders should join in demanding that our government leaders and negotiators move for public disclosure before the draft EPA becomes "a fait acompli".
As viewed by Brewster, it would be consistent with the EU’s own "principles of transparency and inclusiveness" to concur for the draft agreement, which covers trade access and development issues, to be posted on the international Web...", or, he said, "otherwise made publicly available so that interested groups and persons can comment, followed by assessment of these comments and any revisions considered necessary..."
Yesterday, the public sector-owned Guyana Sunday Chronicle reflected similar sentiments in an editorial entitled "Public disclosure needed on EPAs"
Examining what it referred to as the constant "shifting of the goalpost" by the EU in the negotiations with the 79-nation African, Caribean and Pacific (ACP) states for a series of six regional EPAs to replace the expiring Cotonou Convention, the newspaper said:
"Why is there so much reluctance, if not fear, by our own Caribbean Forum (CARICOM plus Dominican Republic) negotiators, indeed our Heads of Government themselves, to take the people into their confidence and share with them some of the critical issues that the EU prefers to keep secret and with negotiations heading for a so-called ’final round’?
The Caribbean Caucus of Ambassadors in Brussels have also spoken of their concern for "a wider debate" on the EPA negotiations along with the ongoing efforts of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM).
In Kenya a human rights body and group of farmers have gone to court with a challenge to the government’s negotiating position with the EU on provisions of the proposed EPAs.
The EU/Cariforum negotiating process and the emerging differences on issues of reciprocal trade access and the definition of economic development and Europe’s role in helping to provide finance, are to be discussed at a forthcoming meeting of Caricom’s Council on Trade and Economic Development (COTED).
This meeting is scheduled for November 15-16 in Guyana when representatives of the Cariforumgroup are also due to meet for latest assessment of the EPA negotiating process.