September 04, 2008

No renegotiation of EPA with Europe

EPA talks will not consider renegotiation, says Barbados PM
Thursday, September 04, 2008
Source: BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (CMC)
Barbados' Prime Minister David Thompson has made it clear that Caribbean Community (Caricom) leaders will not be looking to renegotiate the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe at their special meeting here next week.

He told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that it is already too late to consider reworking the trade deal, and the focus of the September 10 talks, which he requested in a letter to Caricom Chairman Baldwin Spencer, will be on reaching a common position on the agreement.

"Renegotiation is not on the cards. The point is that I can't think there is anybody who believes it's a perfect agreement. Barbados has not said and we are not about to say that EPA is perfect, but we think that it's something we can work with and that, in the circumstances, it is the best that could have been achieved in the negotiations which took over three years," Thompson said.

"I can't believe that anybody could think, and I said so in my letter to the chairman of Caricom, that you can renegotiate in three weeks what experienced, knowledgeable negotiators took three years to come up with."

Guyana has been the most vocal government against the EPA, with President Bharrat Jagdeo insisting that the region will be left with a bad deal if countries sign on. Grenada and St Lucia have also expressed reservations, while the leaders of Barbados, the Bahamas, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago and St Vincent and the Grenadines have made it clear they were ready and willing to sign.

Prime Minister Thompson told CMC he is optimistic that despite the current inconsistencies, the leaders will eventually find a united position.

"What we can't afford is a scenario similar to the Caribbean Court of Justice (CCJ)," Thompson said, referring to the fact that only two Caribbean countries - Barbados and Guyana - have made the CCJ their final appellate court.

"Certainly Barbados is not going to be going along with any arrangement in which only two or three participants are serious about going ahead.

"On this occasion we must be serious as people of the Caribbean and I took the unprecedented step of writing to the chairman of Caricom because I felt that what was happening in our region actually was very embarrassing with all these discordant view points, coming from heads who just months ago met in Antigua and discussed the EPA and other issues," Thompson added

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