The Bahama Journal
October 17th, 2008
By Quincy Parker
CARIFORUM Secretary General Edwin Carrington has called for a region-wide drive at all levels – beginning in school systems throughout CARIFORUM – to promote the adoption of a pro-integration stance to increase competitiveness and productivity of the region.
The signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement has, according to Carrington, moved CARIFORUM and EU countries into a reciprocal trade relationship covering – among other things – goods and services, with unspecified financial and technical developmental assistance.
The EPA was signed in Bridgetown, Barbados, on Wednesday between CARIFORUM – CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic – and the European Union, with two exceptions. Guyana, whose president, Bharat Jagdeo, had indicated a last-minute change of heart and intention to sign, chose not to sign the EPA, as did Haiti.
Carrington said the EPA and its form of partnership demands prudent and effective implementation by CARIFORUM and the EU.
"First of all, our EC (European Commission – which negotiated on behalf of the EU) partners must ensure the efficient and timely discharge of the obligations they have undertaken, to assist all CARIFORUM States in meeting the challenges posed by the new relationship," Carrington said, underlining the duties of each side as he saw them.
"In this regard, the early determination and provision of an equitable share of the Aid for Trade resources will be crucial. Equally important is the commitment of the EC to consider modification to the agreement as necessary following our joint review taking into account our shared experience in implementation."
On the part of the CARIFORUM countries, Carrington said it was critical that they share a common perspective that more integration and cooperation, in content and in process, is indispensable.
"Vital in that context is the need for the region to recognise that there must be a societal sea change in attitude and work ethic leading to a collective effort involving public and private sectors, labour and civil society, all aimed at enhancing our productivity and competitiveness," he said.
"This is absolutely necessary if the region is to be able to compete effectively in the markets of the EC and even in our own regional markets. Moreover, this is the only way that we can ensure that our people benefit from the new global trading arrangements."
Carrington called on CARIFORUM countries to launch a region-wide drive to this end in all countries, at all levels, starting from schools and including all sectors of society.
"Who knows," he said. "This approach to the implementation of the EPA may yet provide the stimulus and the foundation for the region’s effective insertion into the global economy."
The insertion of CARIFORUM into the global economy, he said, was important particularly given the tumultuous times now being experienced in that global economy.
"Drastic situations require drastic measures as we have seen in the world’s largest economies where significant government intervention has taken place in an attempt to stabilise not just the financial sector but the global economy," he said.
Carrington called the EPA "a most challenging agreement."
He said it seeks to recognise the new world trade and economic environment including increasing trade liberalisation, compatibility with World Trade Organisation rules, as well as the changing circumstances relating to co-operation between states, especially between developed and developing states.