Outcome of Negotiations Must Address Caribbean’s Needs

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CARICOM leaders gathered for a meeting (file photo).

Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana : CARIFORUM Secretary-General, His Excellency Edwin Carrington has warned the Region that it must avoid at all costs entering into partnerships of unequals with developed countries.

Mr. Carrington was at the time delivering remarks at the Opening Ceremony of the 15th Meeting of the Ministers of the Caribbean Forum of African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (CARIFORUM) which began in Port-au-Prince, Haiti on Thursday. The Secretary-General said the major concern in the Caribbean must be to ensure that adequate provisions are being made in emerging relationships and circumstances, to address the development needs of countries such as those in the Caribbean.

“The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) (currently being negotiated with the European Union) is a sign of things to come. It introduces the concept of reciprocity in trade relations between developing and developed countries. It imposes on inter-regional trade and economic relations, international norms and disciplines, which pose new threats and challenges – as well as offer fresh opportunities – to developing countries like ours in the Caribbean,” Mr. Carrington said.

CARIFORUM consists of the 14 Independent Member States of CARICOM and the Dominican Republic who are signatories to the ACP-European Union (EU) Cotonou Agreement which governs trade and aid relations between the two groupings. Cuba is also a member of CARIFORUM but is not a signatory to the Cotonou Agreement. Eleven of the 15 Member States are attending the two-day meeting which is the first Ministerial Meeting of CARIFORUM to be held in Haiti.

The Secretary-General of CARIFORUM who is also Secretary-General of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) said that emerging this week from Haiti was a new message to the world: “– a message of the reaffirmation of Haiti’s historical primacy in the Caribbean – a message of its future in the Caribbean – a future which through its increasing stability portends great promise. That message will serve as a beacon to CARIFORUM and to CARICOM as the latter reopens its Representation Office here in Port-Au-Prince, tomorrow, 19 October with the support of the Canadian Government.”

The Minister of Foreign Affairs and Culture of Haiti the Honourable Jean Renald Clerisme in welcoming the delegates said the meeting was indicative of the dynamics of his country’s openness towards the Caribbean which he described as ‘our natural integration area’. Mr. Clerisme said it was important to note that CARIFORUM is being asked at the meeting to accept applications from Martinique and Guadeloupe for Associate Membership. This he said underscored the organisation’s credibility.

The Foreign Minister pointed to the common concern among Member States with respect to the need for the European Development Fund (EDF) to support the efforts at competitiveness by the countries in particular the Less Developed Countries (LDCs). He said the scope of identified programmes demonstrated the desire of governments to have programmes relevant to the development of the people of the Region. He reminded the meeting that the future of the people of the Caribbean will be affected by the outcome of the negotiations for the EPA.

Prime Minister of Haiti the Honourable Jacques Edouard Alexis thanked the EU for the critical support which the cycles of the EDF had provided for the Region’s development. He urged that the co-operation that was evident among the Caribbean countries in their relations with Europe should extend to other international fora.

He said the Caribbean should have a clear united vision of the development perspective and the political environment in which the negotiations were taking place. He argued that trade liberalisation should contribute to the reduction of inequalities and not increase it as this might result in economic ruin for some countries. He said it was critical that issues such as market access, rules of origins and phyto sanitary measures be resolved in the negotiations.

He called for a strengthening of institutional capacity to fulfill the requirements of the EPA so that it could contribute to the promotion of economic development and social progress of the Region. The greatest challenge for ACP countries, he said was the development of the productive sector which was crucial in the struggle to provide sustainable employment. He said that more of the financial resources of the EDF should be released to the elected representatives so that they could undertake the necessary development programmes and urged the EU to listen to the opinions of the ACP to reach an equitable conclusion in these negotiations.

This two-day meeting comes two weeks after the Special Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of CARIFORUM in Montego Bay, Jamaica during which the leaders met with European Commissioners for Trade and for Development and Humanitarian Aid to discuss the on-going negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the EU. The status of those negotiations is one of the items on the agenda of the Ministerial Meeting as is a Report of the Regional Preparatory Task Force on the negotiations. Ministers will also review the status of the 9th European Development Fund (EDF) programmes while considering proposals for the 10th EDF Programme which is valued at about Euro €165 million or US$225 million and will finance regional cooperation projects in CARIFORUM during the period 2008 – 2013.

The Ministers will also consider the future of the CARIFORUM Cultural Support Programme and consider applications from Martinique and Guadeloupe for Associate Membership in CARIFORUM.