Sun | Feb 16, 2020

Elizabeth Morgan | Work lagging on regional protocols

Published:Wednesday | January 22, 2020 | 12:19 AM

A few news reports out of St. Vincent and the Grenadines informed that the Caribbean Forum of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States (CARIFORUM) held its 26th Council of Ministers’ Meeting there on Friday, January 17.

The meeting was chaired by the Hon. Sir Louis Straker, deputy prime minister and minister of foreign affairs, trade and commerce of St Vincent and the Grenadines, the current chair of CARIFORUM. This council meeting was postponed from November 12, 2019 prior to the ACP Summit. It seems the decision was taken to have this rescheduled meeting on-site.

The agenda included the ACP/EU Post-Cotonou negotiations, implementation and five-year review of the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), and Brexit.

REVISION OF THE ACP GEORGETOWN AGREEMENT

Surprisingly, a review of decisions from the ACP Summit, particularly the revisions to the constituent Georgetown Agreement (GA), was not on the agenda. The summit endorsed the substantial revisions to the GA which should see the ACP transformed into the Organization of ACP States (OACPS). These revisions are far-reaching.

An article on the ACP Secretariat website informs that the changes include the addition of eight chapters, 12 articles and two annexes, making the revised agreement now having 13 chapters, 44 articles and two annexes. The OACPS will now have a dispute settlement mechanism.

The financial provisions include establishment of an endowment and trust fund to which members and others are expected to make voluntary contributions. The fund should enable the financial sustainability of the ACP, which is also intending to strengthen its presence in the multilateral arena moving beyond the World Trade Organization (WTO). Already, the ACP has been cooperating with the European Union (EU) on the UN Sustainable Development Goals and Climate Change.

ACP member states will now need to sign this revised agreement to enable its entry into force.

ACP/EU POST COTONOU NEGOTIATIONS

On the ACP/EU Post-Cotonou agreement negotiations scheduled to be concluded in March, I have doubts about this timeline. I note that the EU Lead Negotiator, Jutta Urpilainen, Commissioner for International Partnerships and the ACP Lead Negotiator, Togo’s Foreign Minister Robert Dussey, met in the margins of the ACP Summit. I do not yet see a notification for a formal meeting between them to consider the status of the negotiations and the way forward.

As far as I am aware, there are some important sections of the foundation agreement on which negotiations have yet to commence, such as development cooperation. I am reading that the new EU budget for 2021-2027 (the Multi-annual Financial Framework) is not likely to be approved until the spring. The UK’s departure also leaves a financial gap. Without this budget, I cannot see much progress on development provisions.

Work on the regional protocols also seems to be lagging. The Caribbean is working on its draft, I understand, but there is little indication of the status of the protocols for Africa and the Pacific. It is quite possible that conclusion of the Post-Cotonou negotiations will be further delayed.

CARIFORUM/EU EPA

We know that the second five-year review of the EPA is being prepared and is to be undertaken at a CARIFORUM/EU EPA council meeting to be held this year.

BREXIT – UK/CARIFORUM RELATIONS

On Brexit, there is now every indication that the UK will leave the EU on January 31 and, with the transition period, the CARIFORUM/UK EPA will not take effective until January 2021.

Stefan Kossoff, head, UK Department for International Development (DFID) Caribbean, was reported on January 9 informing CARICOM officials in Barbados that the UK remains committed to creating a stable business environment and trading relationship with the Caribbean. He confirmed that at the end of the transition period with the EU, the UK would be implementing its EPA with the Caribbean.

I gather that there is the possibility of a formal meeting between the UK and the Caribbean in the coming months.

I would have appreciated a press release on the outcome of this council meeting. As usual, information on the deliberations was sparse.

Elizabeth Morgan is a specialist in international trade policy and international politics. Email feedback to columns@gleanerjm.com