Chronology - CARIFORUM/EPA agreement

Jamaica Gleaner | July 20, 2008

Chronology - CARIFORUM/EPA Agreement

In the light of the ongoing debate on the economic partnership agreement (EPA), the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade has released a chronology of the CARIFORUM EC/EPA negotiations, which should bring clarity to the process.

Negotiating an EPA, which is WTO compatible, meaning in essence, a reciprocal free-trade agreement, was a legal obligation enshrined in the 2000 ACP/EU Cotonou Agreement.

As deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Dr Kenneth Baugh stated in his Sectoral Debate presentation in Parliament, June 25, the EPA, however imperfect, creates an opportunity for Jamaica to exploit.

During the negotiations, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade had a well-established mechanism, the Jamaica trade and Adjustment Team (JTAT), for consulting with the public and private sectors, and civil society. The ministry is committed to this consultative approach as we discharge our mandate to pursue Jamaica’s national interest through the management of the country’s foreign-trade policy.

CHRONOLOGY OF THE CARIFORUM/EC EPA NEGOTIATIONS

1. 1993 - Present (15 years): Successful challenges to the European Community’s (EC) banana regime in the General Agreement on Tariffs and Trade (GATT)/ World Trade Organisation (WTO) cases brought against the EC by Latin American banana-producing countries and the United States of America. These have resulted in the EC changing its trading relationship with the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) grouping. The ACP banana provisions were included in the non-reciprocal ACP/EC Lomé Conventions and later the Cotonou Agreement.

Note that this protracted dispute has not yet been definitively resolved since the EC is not considered by the complainants to have fully complied with the ruling of the panel.

2. 1998 - 2000: Negotiation of the Cotonou Agreement, which in Articles 36-37, committed the ACP group to negotiating "WTO-compatible" EPAs with the EC during a transition period.

A WTO-compatible EPA is ostensibly a free-trade agreement under Article XXIV of the GATT 1994, which is a permanent exemption from the most favoured nation (MFN), the non-discrimination principle of Article I of GATT 1994. The EPA would also have a development component.

3. November 2001: WTO Doha Ministerial Decision grants a waiver from Articles I and XIII of GATT 1994 for the trade provisions in the Cotonou Agreement up to December 31, 2007, and also has a decision on transitional arrangements for the trade in bananas.

4. 2002-2003: Preparatory work in progress at the ACP level leading up to the negotiation of the EPAs in six ACP regions, including the Caribbean (CARIFORUM).

5. 2003 -2006: Australia, Brazil and Thailand successfully challenge the EC’s subsidies for sugar in the WTO dispute-settlement proceedings, which led to the reduction of the price of ACP sugar exported to the EC under the Cotonou Sugar Protocol, and, along with internal EU reforms, eventually led to the EC’s denunciation of the Sugar Protocol in September 2007.

6. April 2004: Negotiation of the CARIFORUM/EC EPA officially launched in Kingston, Jamaica, April 16, 2004.

7. April 2004-December 2007: Consultations - The Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade intensified consultations through its JTAT process involving the public and private sectors and civil society to formulate Jamaica’s negotiating positions and strategies. These consultations were held continuously over the period, April 2004 - December 2007. In January 2008, a meeting was held following the initialling of the EPA.

8. November 2006: At a joint CARIFORUM/EC Ministerial Meeting in Brussels, CARIFORUM ministers committed to completing the EPA to meet the deadline for the expiration of the Cotonou waiver of December 31, 2007, and to concluding the negotiations by September 2007.

9. April 2007: In a press conference, the EC announced its duty-free quota-free market-access offer to all the ACP regions.

10. September 2007: It had become clear by this point that the negotiations could not be concluded, as internally, CARIFORUM could not agree on the liberalisation of trade in goods and services in formulating its market-access offer to the EC.

11. April-October 2007: The EC made it clear that the negotiations had to be concluded by the deadline of December 31, 2007, or ACP countries, including CARIFORUM, would revert to trading under the EC’s generalised scheme of preferences or at the most favoured nation level as of January 1, 2008. Calculations indicated that exports from Jamaica of sugar, rum, bananas and alumina would be subject to more than US$70 million worth of import duties.

12. September 2007: New government elected in Jamaica.

Special meeting of the CARICOM Council for Trade and Development (COTED) held in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, September 15, 2007, to discuss outstanding EPA issues.

13. October 2007: Meeting of the Prime Ministerial SubCommittee on External Trade Negotiations is held in Montego Bay, October 4-5, 2007, and is chaired by prime minister Bruce Golding of Jamaica. The meeting is attended by CARICOM prime ministers and a representative of the Dominican Republic. It is also attended by EU Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson, and EU Commissioner for Development, Louis Michel. Both sides commit to concluding the negotiations on time. The meeting was held to give guidance to the CARIFORUM negotiators and to clarify issues with the EC. During the meeting, the EC made other market-access and development-support proposals.

14. October-November 2007: Further intense negotiations are held within CARIFORUM, and between CARIFORUM and the EC in the Caribbean and in Brussels. CARIFORUM is finally able to submit a market-access offer to the EC for goods and an improved offer for services.

15. December 7, 2007: CARI-COM heads of government meeting in Georgetown, Guyana, to consider the outstanding issues in the EPA negotiations and to give guidance to the CARIFORUM negotiators.

16. December 14-16, 2007: EPA negotiations, are concluded well after midnight at the meeting of the CARIFORUM/EC Principal Negotiations, held in Barbados. Both the EC and CARIFORUM make further concessions to conclude a comprehensive agreement covering both goods and services. The EPA was initialled by the principal negotiators on the morning of December 16, as an indication that the negotiations had been concluded.

17. December 18, 2007: Statement by the prime minister to Parliament on the conclusion of the EPA.

18. January 1, 2008: The EC, through a new regulation, imple-mented its market-access commit-ment under the EPA allowing duty-free, quota-free access for CARI-FORUM goods to the EU market in spite of the fact that the EPA had not yet been signed by the parties and provisional application had not yet commenced.

19. February 2008: CARICOM Reflections Group Meeting on the EPA negotiations held in Kingston, Jamaica, February 28-29, 2008.

20. March 2008: COTED and Intercessional Meeting of CARICOM heads of government which addressed the EPA, were held in Nassau, Bahamas, March 3-7, 2008.

Ministry paper to Parliament conveying summary of the EPA and full text on CD ROM. Summary and full text also circulated to all JTAT members.

21. April-July 2008: Signing of the EPA has been deferred because of administrative issues on the part of the EC; the election of new governments in the CARICOM region, including the most recent in Grenada, and developments at the WTO leading to the convening of a Mini-Ministerial Conference, July 21-23, thus creating a scheduling conflict with the signing of the EPA set for 23 July. New dates are being considered for the signing of the EPA.

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source: Jamaica Gleaner