ALP calls on govt not to sign EPA

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).

source: Antigua Sun

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  • ALP calls on govt not to sign EPA3-September-2008 | Mr. Say it Loud

    I am not quite sure if these political parties are only interested in swaying public opinion for vote gains. There were a series of workshops and sessions held in Antigua on the EPA through the Ministry of Finance (Trade) where issues around the EPA were explored and explained by the negotiators themselves. Nobody from these same political parties attended these sessions. It therefore comes as a big surprise that the same political party that does not have the EPA Text, that did not attend the sensitization seminars, that has not consulted or taken part and interest during the consultation phase, is now calling for a renegotiation of the EPA. Do these people know what the contents in the EPA are? NO! Yet they are calling on governments to renegotiate- what? Reading through unsubstantiated reports by some respected academicians from the region doesnot do the region good.

    There are of course some few issues that Governments may seek to have an audience for review with the EU. Refgional Preference clause is one. But to ask for renegotiation when these negotiations are built on more than 4 years of preparations is an outright joke. People did not want/take interest to know about the EPA yet when the signing is now imminent, those same uninformed/misinformed/disinformed people are swaying public opinion by unsubstantiated claims and fallacies in seeking to derail the process. In negotiations you don’t stand to get everything you put on the table. NO! Else they would cease to be negotiations. You gain some and lose some. I guess the regional negotiators had their Best Alternative to a Negotiated EPA Deal which was necessarily NOT A WALK AWAY Strategy! Walk away would be suicidal...nioble minds know that for those countries that export anything to the EU.

    What people and these political parties should put their energy on or should have done is to conscientize their political party leaders to move the CSME process ahead because it is the same committments and some extra that member states would have to deal with under the EPA. Rather than moving with the times and adjusting and alligning themselves with the regional integration movement, some political parties have just stayed quiet and hoping time will solve the region’s problems. It does not work like that in a globalised world. Things change and it is not only changes within CARICOM that have an impact on the existence and functionalities of CARICOM as a regional single space, it takes external affairs (that are exogenous to the regional integration process)as well to decide on the course of regional integration that could be optimal for CARICOM. Therefore, there is every need for CARICOM to position itself in terms of changes in global trends and time waits for no man! The EPA is not coming from nowhere.

    CARICOM Members as parties to the WTO know very well the kind of historical build up from the Lomes through the Cotonou arrangement and getting a WTO waiver etc in 2001. All these developments need to be put in context and be accorded their rightful place and not find scapegoats in the conduct of the negotiations by the CRNM and associated negotiators of the EPA. CARICOM countries had from 2004 to deal with the EPA yet some political parties are saying they have no idea what the EPA is all about. This is an issue about livelihoods and seeking to protect both offensive and defensive interests of the region, while aiming to maximise on opportunities in the EU market and securing the much needed development support. The EPA would not be a perfect agreement but it lays good foundation for moving forward. I would be surprised to understand that these same political leaders do not know the CRNM website...where the EPA Text is readily available plus all annexes..free of charge. Just opening that to read...most politicians do not have the time..all they are waiting for is the opportune time to scare voters about losing their livelihoods and being impovcerished by the EPA. The ideal right now should be building the neccessary infrastructure, proper domestic legislation and practices and structures for the actual EPA implementation while trying to put in place mechanism that make sure the region does not stay behind in terms of capturing development opportunities.

    Like I said earlier, time waits for no man! Pretty soon, if the region does not sign onto the EPA, I would be very glad to hear what these same politicians would put on the table in place of the duties that all Caribbean CARIFORUM products would have to pay to access the EU market. I would also want them to share with their constituencies, where they would get the development support aimed at promoting reform of the discriminatory trade relationship (ACP-EU) within the WTO Framework. I would also be willing to hear from them how they are going to sell the idea that there ceases to be in existence the same kind of bilateral cooperation bewteen this region and the EU, which, for over the years has sustained the largest donor financing relationship with her former colonies in the whole world. Much more could be said here and more and more questions could be asked to the same politicians who should be begged to stop confusing the public....no vote yet for the EPA. The vote is for the ALTERNATIVE. No deal could be an ALTERNATIVE too, yet as politicians I do not think that will be the best sell to their constituencies. Nobody can stomach that!! Adios

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