CARICOM and EU Make Progress Toward Economic Partnership Agreement


The three-day meeting of CARIFORUM Heads of Government and European Union (EU) Commissioners ended on (Oct. 5), with the parties agreeing to work toward having an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) in place by the end of the year.
Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, speaking at a joint press conference held at the Half Moon Hotel in Montego Bay, said that the discussions were fruitful and that great progress has been made.
“We entered these discussions with a number of issues that remained outstanding; a number of issues on which there were significant differences that existed. We have made considerable progress over the past two days; we have reached broad agreement in principle on a number of the sticky issues. It will be left now for the negotiators to fine-tune those areas on which we have been able to reach some broad agreement as to the approach that should be taken,” the Prime Minister stated.
“All of this is going to be pursued with a view to concluding the negotiations, having a draft agreement, which will then have to be vetted for legal precision, but with the intention of having that in place before the 31st December, to come into effect on the 1st January next year,” he told journalists.
Mr. Golding noted however, that there were still some issues which need further discussions but those would be pursued in earnest between CARIFORUM and the EU Commissioners. He emphasized that to ensure World Trade Organization (WTO) compatibility, some issues will be part of continuing discussions even beyond January 1, 2008.
For his part, EU Commissioner with responsibility for trade, Peter Mandelson, declared that the discussions were indicative of what could be achieved by the EU and CARIFORUM, when they work in harmony.
“The top line is that we are going to make this work. The outline of the Caribbean EPA is now moving into place. There are details still to be hammered out, there are difficulties still, but we now have a clear idea of where we want to land in order to meet the year-end deadline and have extended trade preferences and opportunities in place for the Caribbean states on the 1st January 2008,” he stated.
According to Mr. Mandelson, trade reform will go hand in hand with substantial adjustment in assistance, adding that market access changes will be prudent and progressive. He said that there will be no overnight revolution, but the direction of the EU will be clear, balanced, and in line with WTO requirements.
The EU Commissioner went on to pledge the organization’s support to the Caribbean region in the form of strong and flexible development assistance.
He told journalists that the discussions with CARIFORUM lived up to expectations, adding that he was very satisfied, and that it had been “an excellent, indispensable meeting”.
“What we were hoping to achieve was common ground; what we were hoping to achieve was a narrowing of the gaps of convergence between us on key outstanding issues in these negotiations, and that is precisely what we have done”, he stated.
“In some areas, I think we are pretty clear about the final form of our agreement. In other areas, there is still some discussion to be held, there is still some negotiation to take place, but I think that the negotiators who act on our behalf, now have a good idea of the parameters within which they are going to carry out those negotiations,” he stated.
EU Commissioner in charge of development and humanitarian aid, Louis Michel, also expressed satisfaction with the way the negotiations went, adding that a lot was achieved.
He outlined a raft of development assistance programmes that are in place through the European Development Fund and other donor organizations to assist economies in the region, adding that efforts will be made to increase the programmes and the amounts available overtime.

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