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Value of mandatory review in Joint Declaration on EPA

Jamaica Observer

Value of mandatory review in Joint Declaration on EPA

By Norman Girvan

1 November 2008

Coinciding with the signing in Barbados on October 15 of the Economic Partnership Agreement between the European Union and the CARIFORUM countries (Caricom plus the Dominican Republic) was a Joint Declaration that resulted from an initiative by Guyana as a compromise for its decision to also be a signatory to the accord. Professor Norman Girvan examines "the significance" of this mandatory review as provided for in the Joint Declaration.

In the Joint Declaration accompanying the signature of the EPA, the European Commission and the signatory CARIFORUM states attested to their understanding that "in the context of our continued monitoring of the Agreement within its institutions, as provided for under Article 5 of the Agreement, a comprehensive review of the Agreement shall be undertaken not later than five years after the date of signature and at subsequent five-yearly intervals, in order to determine the impact of the Agreement, including the costs and consequences of implementation and we undertake to amend its provisions and adjust their application as necessary".

The key features of this mandatory review are therefore that it is:

(a) comprehensive (b) five-yearly (c) for the express purpose of determining the impact of the EPA, making specific reference to Article 5; includes determination of the costs and consequences of implementation, but does not exclude any other matter, and further:

(e) contains an undertaking to amend the provisions of the Agreement and to adjust their application, but imposes no a priori qualifications on the scope and nature of these amendments and adjustments allowed.
Article 5 of the EPA, to which specific reference is made, states:

"The Parties undertake to monitor continuously the operation of the Agreement through their respective participative processes and institutions, as well as those set up under this Agreement, in order to ensure that the objectives of the Agreement are realised, the Agreement is properly implemented and the benefits for men, women, young people and children deriving from their Partnership are maximised. The Parties also undertake to consult each other promptly over any problem that may arise."

Since the EPA sets out wide-ranging objectives in the preamble and in Chapter 1, including sustainable development, poverty reduction, regional integration, etc, the monitoring that can be undertaken under Article 5 permits its evaluation by an equally broad set of criteria.

However, Article 5 involves no undertaking to modify the agreement in the light of the results of this monitoring. It merely provides for consultation.

On the other hand, the review undertaking in the Joint Declaration (JD) expressly links the results of the monitoring under Article 5 to the mandatory review and, hence, to the amendments that may be proposed.

In effect, any social or economic consequence of the EPA that relates to its stated objectives can be brought within the scope of the mandatory, comprehensive five-yearly review.

The effect of the undertaking in the Declaration in conjunction with Article 5, therefore, is that CARIFORUM has a basis to "put on the table" any and all aspects of the EPA for reconsideration in five years’ time, including all of its contentious clauses.

In this respect, the undertaking is a significant advance over the existing review clauses in the EPA. A close study of the existing clauses reveals that they either:
(a) refer to specific provisions rather than to its overall architecture (as listed); (b) set prescribed limits to the amendments that may be made, for example, Article 16 on import liberalisation; and Article 179 on Public Procurement; or (c) in the case of the Review Clause (Article 246), are for the purpose of "broadening and supplementing its scope" (bringing Europe"s Overseas Countries and Territories within that scope); "making suggestions’ for the adjustment of ’trade-related cooperation’, and provide for a possible review on the expiry of the "Cotonou Agreement", which is in 12 years’ time.

In conclusion, the review undertaking in the Joint Declaration therefore provides Caricom with a window of opportunity for a comprehensive renegotiation of the Agreement in five years’ time.

Whether this will be of practical value depends on how far the Caribbean Community recognises it as such an opportunity, and on the effort that is put into the monitoring process by governments, regional organisations, the private sector, civil society and other stakeholders.

Norman Girvan is former secretary general of the Association of Caribbean States, professorial research fellow of the Institute of International Relations, University of the West Indies, and author of the Caricom Report on Towards a Single Economy and a Single Development Vision.