NEW YORK, United Nations, September 25, 2008 – Refusing to give up on convincing the European Union to take another look at its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Caribbean, Guyana’s President Bharrat Jagdeo has taken his case to the United Nations.
Addressing the 63rd UN General Assembly, Mr Jagdeo made a direct call to European leaders at the meeting to renegotiate the deal, charging that the agreement may fundamentally affect development in Caribbean countries and jeopardise their future negotiating positions at the World Trade Organisation (WTO).
“These agreements will also seriously prejudice our negotiations with other countries and may jeopardise the future of our integration movement,” he added.
“Even at this late hour, I wish to plead with the EU leaders to review these agreements before they irretrievably harm the good historic relations that have existed between the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific states) and the EU.”
President Jagdeo pulled no punches, however, and again accused the EU of bullying tactics.
“The European Commission has threatened to impose tariffs under the GSP (Generalised System of Preferences) on our exports if we do not sign up to agreements that reflect the EU’s model of WTO compatibility, even though the model includes issues that have been removed from the WTO agenda – the so-called Singapore issues (investment, competition, government procurement and trade facilitation),” he told the General Assembly.
“The exploitation of the EU superior negotiating strength and the use of threats to get countries to sign are ironically, how the EU hopes to start this partnership under the EPA. What is particularly irksome is that we are incessantly lectured by the same group of countries that national consultations and working with civil society are essential hallmarks of good governance.
“Yet, when the same civil society opposes the EPA on the ground that it is not sufficiently developmental in nature, we are told to ignore them – that they are complainers,” Jagdeo further argued.
The Guyana leader is the only Caribbean nation that has refused to sign on to the EPA. Jagdeo said the only way his signature would be affixed to the accord is if Europe forces his hand by insisting on reverting to the GSP, which would see goods entering Europe from Guyana subjected to significant tariffs.
His proposal to approach Europe with an alternative “goods only” arrangement was rejected by his Caribbean Community (CARICOM) counterparts when they met in Barbados earlier this month to reach a common position on the deal. All the others have agreed to sign next month, in time for the provisions to take effect by the October 31 deadline.
The EPA is an instrument of trade partnership required by the Cotonou Agreement – a partnership pact between the EU and the ACP group of states. CARICOM’s negotiations were part of wider talks that involved CARIFORUM – a group of the Caribbean states that are members of the ACP – comprising CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.