There is no question about it — we stand in these negotiations on the edge; and, whether this is the edge of a cliff or of success, the future will tell.
“Failure to reach an agreement on the EPA will not spur the EU to engage in an alternative strategy”, according to EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, “….there is certainly no Plan B…” Mandelson told TNI in an exclusive interview on the ACP. However, to accept no flexibility or no Plan B goes against the interest of the ACP countries.
In the run-up to the EPA deadline, there is a last minute rush to try to determine what needs to be changed before the decision to sign the agreement. Yet, there is the belief that developmental issues are being swept under the carpet by the Commission Directorate General for Trade, which is trying to avoid combining binding commitments on development — which would automatically involve the question of financial aid and policy spaces — with a deal on market access.
If the EPA is to deliver on its objectives (development), it must address a lack of genuine market access and the supply side constraints that relegate most of the ACP exports to primary commodities. This implies that the EPA incorporate a consistent, comprehensive and predictable set of actions that systematically, and within a definite time-frame, oblige the contracting parties to address the problems.
In the meanwhile, Guyana held a national consultation on the EPA, which was spent more on presentations given by different speakers.
As a last minute attempt, it would be necessary to have another national consultation; this time, inviting technical persons, unions and political parties for an interactive session, but first making available a copy of the EPA document, or making available the articles of the EPA document that have relevance to Guyana’s situation. Hence these are the reasons for consultation
– To obtain consensus
– To have ownership of solutions/decisions arrived at
– To gain perspectives
– To reinforce positions
– To gain commitment from stakeholders
In the end, should Guyana sign or not sign the EPA?
What Guyana needs at this time is an adequate sustainable solution. Guyana’s traditional products are mainly rice, rum and sugar. If a product development analysis of these products is done, one will find that Guyana has a competitive advantage in the marketing of these items.
However, sugar would be facing more challenges in the not too distant future. A recent edition of Spore magazine, August 2008 issue, had this to say: –
“…Mauritius Sugar Growers Union, SDS, has signed a contract with Europe’s largest sugar company, the German group Sudzucker, to supply an annual 400,000 tons of white sugar between 2009 and 2015. Two factories will be built in Mauritius to refine the sugar, which will be sold in Europe. The deal marks an important move by Mauritius, which until now produced only brown sugar — to adapt to the reform of the EU sugar sector”.
What about rice? Guyana is the lowest cost producer of rice in the Caribbean. Why do we not control the market for rice in the Caribbean? Perhaps there would be problems in the export of rice to the EU in the future.
It is said that Guyana has the best rum yet exported. Perhaps there would be problems in the export market to the EU in the future for rum as well.
In conclusion, following an outcome from a technical meeting/consultation, we should have much to think about the EPA, whether to sign or not to sign.
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