Oct 14, 2008 News Comments Off on Controversy surrounds Guyana’s signing of EPA
Guyana has reconsidered its position on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), and President Bharrat Jagdeo has said that he will be among the Bridgetown signatories tomorrow, according to one news report on the Caribbean Media Report.
However, at home, President Jagdeo, when asked yesterday whether he would sign the EPA tomorrow, said that he was unlikely to do so, although he has reservations that by signing later it would appear that he was pressured into signing.
At the same time, his CARICOM colleagues would appear to have secured the recent modifications, although it was Guyana that managed to force two amendments to the EPA, one of which seeks to have the EU accept that the Treaty of Chaguaramas take precedence over any Act, once there is conflict.
The other amendment allows for a five-yearly review of the EPA.
Jagdeo, in a special interview with the state media National Communications Network (NCN), said that if all goes according to plan, he may sign the much talked about Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union by the October 15 deadline after all.
Jagdeo reportedly said the EU has agreed in full to one of the two conditions he had established as necessary before Guyana signed the deal.
The European bloc has agreed to a mandatory periodic review of the EPA to assess its socio-economic impact on CARIFORUM states.
However, the Guyanese leader says, the first condition for the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas to take precedence if it conflicted with the deal, has been agreed to but in a diluted state.
“They have ‘watered this down’ to say that in the implementation of the Agreement, they will take account of the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, but that is slightly different from a commitment to the Treaty of Chaguaramas being supreme. That is, the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas prevailing in cases of conflict,” he contended.
The Guyanese leader is also optimistic that his demands will be met by the EU. “I think we may succeed in getting one of two clauses in the form that I proposed.
That is, the periodic review, after every five years, of the socio-economic impact of this agreement on our region, on our economies, our people and commitment on the part of Europe to take…to address that impact. Now, I don’t know what will happen in the future, whether Europe will honor it, but at least we’ll have the provision, this binding provision of Europe, and that will satisfy a principal concern that I had had, that there was no review clause in the Agreement,” he said.
Jagdeo said that although this is a step forward, Caribbean nations need to hold out and continue negotiations with the hope that once these conditions are met, they would be honoured by Europe.
Meanwhile, on the subject of the negotiating body, the Guyanese leader says he is in favour of the Regional Negotiating Machinery being merged into the Caricom Secretariat.
On Saturday, Jagdeo said that he felt vindicated and that all his efforts to fight for a better Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) for the region did not go in vain. Last Wednesday, the Head of State expressed disappointment that, while in the United States recently, he had learnt that some Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries were urging the European Commission (EC) to ‘lean hard’ on Guyana, since, if this country succeeded in its lobby against the agreement, then they would ‘look bad’.
He described the consideration by Europe as tremendous progress, and noted that should the EC include the clause, it would mean that the Agreement would be improved significantly.
“I said before (that), if Europe, contrary to all that it has publicly stated, were to impose all it has committed to at various levels, especially at the level of the Council, if it were to impose tariffs under the GSP on us, then I would have no choice but to sign,” he explained.
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