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Ramphal pleads for more equity in EPA

Trinidad and Tobago Express

Ramphal pleads for more equity in EPA

By Rickey Singh, Bridgetown

27 March 2008

Sir Shridath Ramphal yesterday made a strong plea to the European Union (EU) for "greater equity" in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) being negotiated with the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and, specifically, the one to be signed this coming June with the Caribbean Community and the Dominican Republic.

Ramphal, first head of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM) and a key Caribbean player in the launch of the Lome Convention, in 1975, that laid the basis for future relations between the EU and ACP, said the EU seems bent on "reversing the trend" that had been a core feature of cooperation in successive Lome and Cotonou Agreements.

The former Commonwealth secretary general and chairman of The West Indian Commission was addressing a meeting at the Olof Palme International Centre in Stockholm, Sweden, on the four independent international commissions of the 1980s and 1990s, all of which he was a member.

The commissions were headed, respectively, by Germany’s Willy Brandt; Sweden’s Olof Palme’; Norway’s Gro Harlem Bruntdland, and one jointly chaired by Sweden’s Ingvar Carlson and Guyana’s Ramphal.

The former Guyana foreign minister and chancellor of the University of the West Indies told his audience that "equity" had always been a "strong emphasis" for developing countries in reshaping of the international order. The EU had set a good example by its own involvement in the trade and economic arrangement forged with the ACP in the Lome and successor Cotonou Agreements.

Now, however, contends Ramphal, the 27-member EU was exerting undue pressure, in negotiations by the European Commission (the union’s executive arm), into negotiating EPAs that were "inimical to the very existence of the ACP group as well as the prospects for sustainable development of the poorest countries..."