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Wednesday 22 May 2019
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Reject EPA as is

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which is heavily slanted in favour of its drafters, the European Union (EU), and which the EU insists that the Caribbean agree to and sign by September 2, should be rejected and a completely new EPA drafted, which, genuinely, takes into account the social and economic interests of Caribbean nations.

What is shameful, apart from the intent of the European Union, is that the respective Caricom Governments clearly failed to monitor, stage by stage, the negotiations between the Caribban Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) and the EU or the Region would not have had to wait until the virtual eve of the date set for the EPA signing for any Member State to recognise its deficiencies.

In turn, you only have to note the observations of Professor Clive Thomas in his “Guyana and the Wider World, Design and Architecture of the EPA: The Importance of Self-Critique”, published in Guyana’s Stabroek News on February 24 of this year. “By no stretch of the imagination can blame for this situation be entirely attributed to the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM). This has been a collective failure of the Region, especially on the part of the political directorates that shoud have guided the process.”

I had referred, specifically, in This Column last week to Professor Thomas’ quoting from the Report of the United Kingdom Parliament’s Select Committee on International Development, re the EU-CRNM negotiations. Today, I add further quotes from the Select Committee’s Report. “Despite its over-riding policy emphasis on poverty eradication and sustainable development for the EU, the ACP-EU negotiations are about one thing, namely achieving the progressive and reciprocal liberalisation of trade in goods and services, in accordance with WTO rules, not taking into account the level of development of the ACP countries and the economic, social and environmental constraints they are facing.”

“Any agreement offered to the ACP must have a developmental component; should not conflict with regional integration processes; should not demand liberalisation in sectors where the EU has not itself liberalised; and should not seek to put onto the agenda in regional negotiations, issues which the ACP group has previously rejected at the all ACP level.”

Why was a “developmental component” lacking and why was it necessary for the Select Committee to point out what should have been clear, not only to the CRNM, but to the region’s “political directorates” as well? This, especially, when the African-Caribbean-Pacific – European Economic Community’s Convention of Lome, signed on February 28, 1975, had emphasised in Article 1 (Trade Co-operation) of the Convention, Page 25, that “In the field of trade co-operation, the object of this Convention is to promote trade between the Contracting Parties, taking account of their respective levels of development, and, in particular, of the need to secure additional benefits for the trade of ACP States, in order to accelerate the rate of growth of their trade and improve the conditions of access of their products to the markets of the European Economic Community.....so as to ensure a better balance in the trade of the Contracting Parties.”

The disgustingly patronising wording suggests that Article 1 was written by the European Economic Community and fawningly accepted by ACP countries. Indeed, whether it was the earlier Convention signed at Yaounde on July 29, 1969 by African-Pacific countries, or the Cotonou experience or the EPA, the self satisfying European Imperialist touch is there. But even as the EEC, which is today the European Union, spoke condescendingly of “the need to secure additional benefits for the trade of ACP States”, it was taking a substantial portion of ACP sugar, refining it and selling the refined white sugar product on the international market, largely Nigeria, Algeria and Middle East countries at massive profits. Today’s planned EU approach with the EPA is no different and will be no less self serving than it was with the Conventions of Yaounde, Lome and Cotonou!

The EPA is not prepared, indeed there is not and never was any intention on the part of the EU to promote trade with the region, save for one-way trade – the European Union to the Caribbean.


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