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Guyana’s concerns shared by ACP member states

GEORGETOWN (GINA) — Guyana participated at the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) Council of Ministers Meeting held in Ouagadougou, Africa on June 17 to 19 where member states echoed the concerns first raised by Guyana about unresolved issues including Most Favoured Nations (MFNs), Rules of Origin, market access and export taxes.

Minister of Foreign Affairs Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett and Guyana’s Ambassador to Belgium Patrick Gomes, represented Guyana at the meeting which preceded the joint ACP-EU Council meeting on June 21-22.

Prior to signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the European Union in 2008, Guyana had raised its concerns but eventually signed on to the agreement to avoid trade disruptions.

The Council discussed several issues including the status of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPAs) trade in bananas, sugar and cotton, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs) and has petitioned the EU to revisit some of the conditions which the ACP finds difficult to accept.

Since the launching of the EPA process in 2002, only 27 of the 78 countries including the CARIFORUM group have signed full or interim agreements while nine have only initialled agreements.

The other negotiating groups are advocating for an automatic five-year review to be included in the EPAs, a position first taken by Guyana, leading up to the signing of ACP/EU EPA.

A Joint ACP-EU Declaration on EPAs was expected at the end of the Joint Council meeting but Minister Rodrigues-Birkett opined that such a Declaration will not encapsulate the concerns expressed by member states during the discussion.

The Foreign Minister indicated that while efforts should be made to find common ground on a Joint ACP-EU Declaration on EPAs and unresolved issues, it is incumbent on the ACP Council to issue a Declaration. The suggestion received widespread support from member states and an ACP Declaration is being finalised.

With regards to sugar, the ACP group noted the negotiations for a Free Trade Agreement (FTA) between the European Commission and the Group of Central American countries which will further erode the preferences accorded to ACP countries in their respective EPAs and adversely affect their competitiveness.

The group is of the view that the European Commission failed to adequately consult the ACP on these trade arrangements as stipulated by the Cotonou Agreement and the EPAs.

Member states, while noting that the EU is reforming its Common Agricultural Policy for 2013, called for fair remunerative EU market prices for ACP producers.

The group also called for continuing preferential sugar access beyond 2015 given the fact that major investments in sugar industries are amortized over long periods.

It asked that the EU and the Commission “ensure that the new provision of the Cotonou Agreement regarding the need to review support programmes such as the Accompanying Measures Support Programme with a view to deciding on appropriate additional measures to be implemented in order to guarantee the Commission’s commitment to continued support of the ACP Commodity Sector, including sugar, beyond 2013.”

As of August 1, 2010 Guyana will be chair for the ACP Council for six months. Minister Rodrigues-Birkett acknowledged the work of the ACP while noting its significant role in the Organisation as evidenced by the Georgetown Accord.

The Foreign Affairs Minister however, highlighted the need for an assessment of the Organisation in the context of the new and ever changing global environment.

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