Antigua Sun | Monday September 01 2008
ALP calls on govt not to sign EPA
by Aarati Jagdeo
The Antigua Labour Party is calling on the government not to sign the EPA.
“We call on the UPP government not to sign the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in its present form,” a statement released to the media on the weekend stated.
The EPA is a trade scheme created to form a Free Trade Area (FTA) between the European Union (EU) and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries. In response to what is sometimes critiqued as the non-reciprocal or discriminating preferential trade agreements offered by the EU, which are incompatible with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, an EPA was drawn up for the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) and the EU.
Under the EPA, trade would occur in a non-discriminatory nature with open reciprocity. This would involve the removal, in phases, of all trade preferences previously established between ACP countries, of which Antigua and Barbuda is one, and the EU.
The pros and cons of entering into an EPA has become a priority, as a decision from political leaders of the Caribbean is needed within the week.
Bird stated, “The document needs to be made available to all stakeholders so that appropriate proposals can be made for renegotiating the clauses that would hurt our local businesses, local employment and economy.”
Bird claimed that due to the United Progressive Party’s (UPP)’s failure to release the content of the document, the ALP had been unable to make an informed decision about the agreement. “We have had to rely on public information to piece together an understanding of the document and its implications.”
Bird also stated that the ALP was not the only entity in the nation that had been denied information about the EPA. “To our knowledge, no other political party, private sector group or trade union organisation has been provided with the details of the EPA.”
Bird concluded that it had become clear that many aspects of the EPA should be re-negotiated, prior to any signing by the CARIFORUM. Bird also touched on the potential threats which signing such an agreement could have on the future of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy (CSME).