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Guyana signs EPA in Brussels

Five days after 13 other Caribbean countries signed on to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe, Guyana has sealed the deal, not in the region as the others did, but in Brussels. Guyana's Ambassador to the European Union (EU), Dr Patrick Gomes, signed the controversial document that signals the start of a new trading arrangement between CARIFORUM - the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic - and the European Commission, which negotiates trade deals on behalf of the 27-nation EU.

"The Commission welcomes the decision by Guyana, which will now join the EU and its member states and the other 13 Caribbean countries that signed the EPA in Barbados last week in implementing the agreement by the end of the month," the EC said in a brief statement. When the official ceremony took place in Bridgetown on October 15, President Jagdeo had indicated he was not quite ready to sign, but would do so by the October 31 deadline. The Guyanese leader, who had been adamant that he would not agree to the final accord, said his change of heart came after Europe agreed to a Joint Declaration that stipulates a review of the EPA every five years to analyse the pact's economic impact on the Caribbean Community (CARICOM).

"We won a mandatory review, not a review based on European whim or fancy but a mandatory review which will take place every five years and a commitment to...change the EPA and its provisions or the implementation of the EPA were it to impact negatively on our people. It is a huge development and the whole region now will benefit from it," President Jagdeo said last week.   

The declaration also provides some protection for CARICOM as it proceeds to develop the Single Market and Economy (CSME), even though Mr Jagdeo said he had wanted "stronger language". He had wanted an assurance that the Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas, which established CARICOM, would take precedence if there was a conflict with the EPA, but Europe said it would not go as far as that.

Apart from Montserrat, which as a British Overseas Territory was not part of the EPA negotiations, Haiti is the only CARIFORUM country which has not signed the trade pact. The country has asked for extra time, given the fact that its new government has been battling the effects of four consecutive storms and has had little time to either conduct public and private sector consultations or consider the agreement. Europe said it would continue discussions with Haiti and assured that the delay would not negatively impact trade with that Caribbean country.


Publication date: 10/23/2008


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