Opposition political parties yesterday shunned an invitation by President Bharrat Jagdeo to attend a briefing on recent developments as it relates to the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement.
Alliance For Change Leader, Raphael Trotman chose instead to attend a protest demonstration in Linden regarding the security arrangements at the Wismar Hospital, where two nurses were robbed, with one of them being sexually molested.
Party Chairman Khemraj Ramjattan said that he was unaware of any such invitation to his party but nevertheless would not have attended, citing that there was no reason for such a briefing.
He noted that all and sundry were clear on President Jagdeo’s position and he will have to sign despite his opposition to the EPA.
The party in a recent press briefing did state that Jagdeo should be commended for his stand on the EPA but given that the remaining CARIFORUM countries have decided to sign on to the EPA, the only logical choice for Jagdeo now was to sign on.
Ramjattan had said that it would have been catastrophic for the country not to sign given that the nation’s exports to Europe would be subjected to GSP (Generalised System of Preferences).
Meanwhile, the People’s National Congress Reform (PNCR) yesterday announced and lived up to its statement that it would not have attended the briefing.
In a press statement to the media, the party noted that mature consideration was given to the invitation and it was concluded that, given previous experiences, no good purpose would be served by attending such a briefing.
“In any case, the PNCR is at a loss to determine what purpose the briefing would serve, given that President Jagdeo’s many pronouncements on the EPA are now in the public domain.”
The party noted, however, that it recognizes that the EPA is not a perfect agreement, conceding that there are deficiencies in trade agreement “However, the PNCR also recognizes the many positive aspects of the EPA, as well as its potential for aiding Guyana’s trade and development.”
The statement noted that while the PNCR can see merit in some of the arguments advanced by President Bharrat Jagdeo, it has strong reservations about the timing of those arguments. The party believes that it would be useful to spend some time ventilating these issues.
The party used the opportunity also to voice its dismay that the Administration appears not to have seen the need to have a proper inter-agency and multi-stakeholder approach to the EPA, in which the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Ministry of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation would have played pivotal roles.
“Equally disturbing is the absence of any evidence that the Guyana Mission in Brussels was properly briefed and staffed to support this important national exercise, in order to effectively contribute towards the promotion and protection of Guyana’s interest in relation to the EU and the EPA…What is worse is that the President and his Administration had since April 2004, when the Caribbean Forum of ACP states (CARIFORUM) launched the EPA negotiations with the EU, to take all necessary steps to organize for the negotiations in a manner which would effectively promote and protect the interests of the people of Guyana.”
The party also noted that what is most harmful to the long term interests of this nation is “the undermining, by President Jagdeo, of the solidarity and unity within CARICOM, that had been built up over time”.
CARIFORUM leaders have agreed to sign the EPA before the end of October, which will mark the commencement of a new trading era with the European Union.
President Jagdeo has long held out that he would not have signed and was pressing for a goods only agreement with a two-year grace period to analyze and possibly re-negotiate the services aspect of the agreement.
He subsequently failed to garner support in Barbados where CARIFORUM leaders met at a special meeting of heads to decide on the way forward on the EPA.
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