The Islamic Post Blog

Economic Partnership Agreement Focuses on Caribbean Products, Labor Exploitation by Khalida
October 3, 2008, 9:17 pm
Filed under: Latino/Caribe, Sept/Oct Volume - 2008 | Tags:

Regional Leaders Express Regrets, Frustrations

By Noora Ahmad, Islamic Post Staff Writer

The Deputy Director-General of Trade for the European Commission, Karl Friedrich Falkenburg, recently made clear the reality that governments worldwide have accepted the World Trade Organization (WTO), a global body of un-elected officials, as the highest commercial authority, and have allowed WTO laws to supersede the desires of elected governments and even regional bodies like the EU. “This is not a threat. This is not an EU community choice. This is what we will have to do within the WTO rules to which we have all subscribed…” he said. “This is not of my bullying. The EU has to play within the confines of a multilateral trading system.” the Director-General clarified.
Karl Falkenburg was apparently responding to the July accusation by Guyanese President Bharrat Jagdeo of the EU having used “bully-boy tactics” in negotiating the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean Community (Caricom) and the EU.
Earlier this month, the EU rejected President Jagdeo’s request to entertain a “goods only” proposal, which would have curtailed foreign investment and service-related trade stemming from the EPA. Acceptance of the proposal would possibly have put to rest allegations that the EPA threatens to flood the Caribbean market with foreign corporations, rendering the partnership a vastly unfair one.
“If you combine the GDP (Gross Domestic Product) of all the countries in our region, it would be less than the assets of a large bank in Europe, so you can imagine how unbalanced, how uneven the negotiations are; because you’re not negotiating as two equal partners. They got their way because they’re essentially a bigger power and they can always threaten to cut off their markets,” aid the Guyanese president.
St. Lucia’s Prime Minister Stephenson King, like his newly elected Grenadian counterpart, Tillman Thomas, flatly says he will not sign the deal as it currently stands, IPS News reported.
The EU primarily imports rice, sugar and alcoholic products. If the EPA is confirmed by all Caricom nations, the EU has the potential, in turn, to dominate construction, tourism, sports, art and real estate, and most other service-related fields, not to mention the local food market.
Although technically the EPA is signed between individual countries and the EU, Guyana, St Lucia and Grenada’s refusal to formalize the EPA last month led Caricom to postpone the signing until October with mounting concern that the lack of unity over trade policies with the EU could spell overall trouble for Caricom’s projected Single Market and Economy (CSME). Caricom heads favor the idea of the CSME, which would give the region a single currency and codify commerce for the 13 English-speaking nations that make up the regional body.
While Trinidad and Tobago’s President Patrick Manning, who is also the chairman of Caricom, has been touring the region to build support for the CSME, he faces opposition at home on the project. “I wish to condemn the[se] actions,” said Opposition leader, Basdeo Panday,” “Such a serious matter as ‘political integration’ should have been the subject of a referendum.”
Former statesman and Commonwealth Secretary General, Sir Shridath Ramphal, also feels Caricom as a whole is making decisions that are too rash; but he refers instead to the EPA. “We (the Caribbean people) have lost the capacity to manoeuvre,” he told Caribbean Net News, emphasizing that the Europeans initial, pause, review, come back, regroup. and then re-argue.
It seems that Caricom nations no longer have such options. When approached by Bharrat Jagdeo about having a goods-only agreement in the place of a full Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union, Dir. Gen. Falkenburg replied, “Honestly my answer is no. I don’t see how that is possible. The chances of getting it are zero.”


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