Mitchell: EPA Will Benefit Freeport

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Hon. Fred Mitchell

Hon. Fred Mitchell 

Freeport, Grand Bahama – In the statement, Mr. Mitchell briefed the Grand Bahama media on the PLP’s position with regard to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the European Union.  He said the success of the Economic Partnership Agreements and a trade deal between Europe and the ACP, “will help to enhance Freeport as a centre for trade in The Bahamas and protect the competitiveness of The Bahamas as a country.

The PLP “will support” the signing of “a goods only deal with the EU and leaving the issue of services to be settled at a later date” said Mr. Mitchell.

He said that former Prime Minister Perry Christie wrote a letter to the Prime Minister expressing “our concern as a party on these issues and urging the Government to remain engaged in the EPA process” and urged the business community in Freeport “to continue to hold the Government’s feet to the fire”.

Mr. Mitchell told the Grand Bahama audience that the PLP’s concern over the state of the economy was double in Freeport, “where it appears that the FNM administration in their six months in office have done little if anything to help get this economy going again.

“It is now time for the FNM to do something to help this economy.

“Whatever you have seen of late whether from Associated Grocers, the payment of the funds to the former workers of Oasis, the conclusion of the Harcourt deal, were all matters started on the PLP’s watch and for which the country ought to put to the PLP’s account.

See Below The Full Text: 

A Grand Bahama News Conference
ON ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENTS

I want to brief you on the PLP’s position with regard to the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPA) with the European Union.  You will know that on 31st December the Contonou Agreement between the African Caribbean Pacific group of countries of which The Bahamas is a part and the European Union will expire.  The waiver granted by the World Trade Organization that allows the continuation of one way preference entry into the European markets is unlikely to be renewed.  The European Union has been pressing for an agreement by the end of the year.  The Europeans have said they will not seek an extension of the deal.

Up to October of this year, the PLP sounded the alarm on this issue.  The FNM administration did not seem engaged in the issue as a matter of policy.  They missed one of the meetings at the political level, and there was a dearth of information about whether or not they actually attended meetings for the negotiations at either the political or the technical level.

The PLP did not and does not support disengagement from the process.  It appears now that the FNM is more engaged in the region’s issues.  It was announced yesterday that the area of functional cooperation has been created in the quasi Cabinet of Caricom and that responsibility is to be led by the Bahamian Prime Minister.  Much is being made of this but the creation of functional cooperation as an area is designed by Caricom simply to keep The Bahamas’ Prime Minister engaged in the process, since his party seemed to suggest in Opposition and in government that they wanted to drop out of the Caricom process.  Caricom has therefore designed a way to keep him personally engaged.

It is a good thing for The Bahamas to be engaged because particularly as it relates to the Economic Partnership process, The Bahamas stands to benefit from the continuation of a trade agreement with the European Union.  Not only will this protect existing market access, that of Bahamian crawfish entering the markets of Europe and in the case of Freeport the export of goods from Freeport to Europe, from Polymers in particular, but it will also set The Bahamas to remain competitive with regard to investment and development financing.

The government’s statement of yesterday also indicated that The Bahamas is considering signing a goods only deal with the EU and leaving the issue of services to be settled at a later date.  This is a position that the PLP will support.  Former Prime Minister Perry Christie wrote a letter to the Prime Minister expressing our concern as a party on these issues and urging the Government to remain engaged in the EPA process.

I would urge the business community here in Freeport to continue to hold the Government’s feet to the fire on this.  You will note that the PLP has already issued a general statement about our concerns on the state of the economy, a copy of which I will circulate with these remarks today.  That concern is raised doubly here in Freeport where  it appears that the FNM administration in their six months in office have done little if anything to  help get this economy going again.

Whatever you have seen of late whether from Associated Grocers, the payment of the funds to the former workers of Oasis, the conclusion of the Harcourt deal, were all matters started on the PLP’s watch and for which the country ought to put to the PLP’s account.  It is now time for the FNM to do something to help this economy.  That is why we are so concerned about the success of the Economic Partnership Agreements and a trade deal between Europe and the ACP.  This will help to enhance Freeport as a centre for trade in The Bahamas and protect the competitiveness of The Bahamas as a country.