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Jagdeo Still Wary Of EU Deal

GUYANA (JAMAICA) –President Bharrat Jagdeo remains convinced that the region did not get the best possible deal in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) which was signed with the 27 European Union (EU) member states in 2008.

Jagdeo had expressed strong reservations about the EPA during the negotiation and Guyana signed under protest after holding out for some key changes.

Now, almost two years later, the outspoken Guyanese president is still questioning the wisdom of signing the deal.

“I don’t regret anything that I did in opposing the EPA … . In fact, today we feel more vindicated than ever before that many of the things we said came to pass and it is haunting us in negotiations with others,” Jagdeo told journalists on Tuesday at the 31st CARICOM Heads of Government meeting in Montego Bay, St James.

According to Jagdeo, CARICOM has received signals from the South American trading group MERCUSOR that it would be willing to enter a trade agreement with regional states on the principle of not demanding full reciprocity the way the European Union demanded.

“This in itself is a strong signal that maybe we should have been a bit more cautious,” added Jagdeo.

“Our holding out up to the last day before the signing, in the face of threat of sanctions against Guyana, got us two things: a mandatory five years review and a provision that the EPA must not conflict with the revised Treaty of Chaguaramas,” argued Jagdeo.

“If we had held out more together I think we could have gotten much more. In fact, the Africans are saying Europe does not want to offer them the five-year review that we got, and that is because we held out to the last.”

Fourteen CARICOM states and the Dominica Republic (CARIFORUM) signed the EPA in October 2008 before it came into effect in December of that year.

Secure basis

The EPA is intended to provide a secure basis for reciprocal trading in goods and services between CARIFORUM and the EU.

But Jagdeo criticised the agreement and accused his CARICOM colleagues of undermining the tools traditionally used to protect regional interests, namely, multilateralism and regional integration.

In underscoring his point at that time, Jagdeo said that because of the proximity and special circumstances associated with trade with Brazil, Guyana could want to negotiate a more favourable deal with that country, but by doing so would be bound to extend the same to Europe.

At that time, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding admitted that the region did not get what it wanted in the deal but argued that the EPA was satisfactory.

“Did we get what we want, no … . Did we get a good agreement, yes … . Could we have gotten a better deal … . I doubt it,” Golding said then.

Golding also stated that the EPA did not undermine the viability of the CARICOM Single Market and Economy but strengthened it, given its provisions.

He argued that the EPA would force the region to be more competitive and achieving this internal competitiveness would serve the region well, not only in the context of the EPA but in other trading relations.

The EPA required CARIFORUM to open up 85 per cent of its market on a phased basis over 25 years to European goods, while Europe was required to fully open its market to goods and certain services from the region.

The remaining 15 per cent, consisting of goods and services considered sensitive – 75 per cent of which is agricultural goods – is protected and prevented from competition from European products.

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Categories: Development, Diaspora News
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