By Havelock R. Brewster
Despite the intransigence of the European Commission, and the failure of CARICOM partners to cooperate with Guyana in addressing the glaring shortcomings of the CARIFORUM- European Union Economic Partnership Agreement, the Guyana Government has succeeded in getting two important improvements to the Agreement, through a Declaration to be appended to it.
This will provide for : a mandatory evaluation of the costs and other deleterious effects of the Agreement in five yearly periods so as to determine where the terms of the Agreement and/or of their application need to be amended; and
Some degree of protection for CARICOM as it proceeds to develop the Single Market and Economy, given that the EPA prematurely incorporates policies and measures that have not yet been developed and/or adopted within CARICOM itself. These protections and the mechanism for revision of the EPA will now permit the Guyana Government to be a party to the EPA to be signed today.
The President had said from the start that Guyana would not be a signatory to the Agreement unless forced to do so under duress, given the substantial losses that Guyana would incur due to the punitive tariffs that would be applied to its exports, particularly sugar, rice and rum.
He proceeded, therefore, to seek the cooperation of the other CARICOM States in getting the EU to amend the most harmful provisions, or lack of provisions, in the Agreement. Regrettably, the CARICOM partners failed to respond positively to his requests to do so, even though these changes would be in the interests of all. Guyana had long warned of these harmful provisions. They include, among others:
the weak or non-existent development dimension that was supposed and promised as the center-piece of the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union- a French-sponsored review actually referred to the Agreement as “anti-development”; the curtailment of Caribbean development policy-space in several important respects; reneging on commitments undertaken in respect of the WTO negotiations;
a number of unsatisfactory features in respect of the provisions on Services and WTO-Plus issues like investment, intellectual property rights, government procurement, e-commerce, and on Trade in Goods as well;
pre-emption of CARICOM’s development of regional integration instruments in those very areas , including certain of them presently, actively, under negotiation in CARICOM;
the astonishing give-away of the MFN;
the inexplicable absence of any mechanism for evaluation of the cost and other effects of the Agreement, and commitment, if need be, to revision of the terms, or application, of the relevant provisions.
Without support from the Caribbean Community as a whole, it has not been possible to get all these issues substantively addressed now.
Moreover, an initiative through the Grouping of African Caribbean and Pacific countries for a Presidential engagement with the European Union, to be organized by October 31, on such issues – that also affect the African and Pacific States- has been ignored by CARIFORUM.
The Declaration therefore, while it does not address upfront all the issues, ensures that there is adequate protection to ensure that harmful effects are detected, arrested and corrected periodically.
It is unquestionably an important concession secured from the EC, for CARICOM as a whole, and one with which Guyana can live.
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