JO - A new dawn in relations between Europe, Caribbean
A new dawn in relations between Europe, Caribbean
Thursday, December 20, 2007
We have not yet seen the fine print of the newly struck European Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Caribbean. So we are not yet in a position to give it our unconditional embrace.
Yet, already we sense that the historic pact represents a terrific start at the dawn of a new era in relations between Europe and its present and former colonies in the region.
We think that Jamaica's Ambassador Richard Bernal and his team represented us well in arriving at this partnership agreement that will replace, as of January 2008, the Doha and Lome aid and trade pacts that have guided relations between the two blocs for decades.
Not unexpectedly, the negotiations were tortuous and took three years to reach this pass. Even so, some of the items that the Caribbean wanted were not on the final list.
In our view, the most far-reaching agreement is the fact that CARIFORUM - the bloc comprising the Caribbean Community (Caricom) nations and the Dominican Republic - will, under the new arrangements, have duty-free and quota-free access to European markets for all exports in goods and services, with the exception of rice and sugar.
It is our belief that the future ought to be built on trade and not aid, and if our producers unleash the innate Caribbean spirit of entrepreneurism, we stand a real chance of working our way out of our problems. The day of waiting for handouts, which often never come in the needed quantities, is over.
Naturally, we hope that tourism is defined as export under the EPA, because as a region we are on top of our game in that industry, and can soar to greater heights, as long as the doors to the biggest markets are opened and the playing field is level.
This has not always been the case, because others, while insisting that we fling our doors wide open to them, have found ways to keep protectionism alive by keeping our manufacturers out of their markets.
Obviously, it is early days yet and it is left to be seen how the various European countries will interpret the EPA in the context of their economies.
One can hardly stay here and judge the success before seeing how it will work in reality.
Lome, for all its decades of existence, was never seen as completely satisfactory to all. Each pact represented an improvement on the previous one. Which, in complex negotiations like the EPA, is often the best that one can hope for.
In this round of negotiations, the issues at stake went far beyond those of Europe and the Caribbean. The rules of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) remained a constant reminder of the interdependence of the international economy.
What happens in Kingston echoes in Karachi.
So our attitude to this first European Partnership Agreement is positive and full of hope.
We look forward to getting the full text of the pact that will allow us deeper analysis.
In the meantime, again, congratulations to the Caribbean negotiators and their counterparts on the other side of the Atlantic.