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Guyana parliament ratifies Economic Partnership Agreement

Published:Monday | May 14, 2012 | 12:00 AM

Guyana legislators put aside their differences over the 2012-13 national budget and unanimously approved a motion ratifying the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed between the European Union (EU) and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) countries in 2008.

Foreign Affairs Minister Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett tabled the motion on the EPA, which replaces the trade provisions of the Cotonou agreement between African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU that offered non-reciprocal trade agreements on more favourable terms.

The EPA now offers reciprocal terms, but Guyana was among countries that had originally declined signing the accord on the grounds that there was no provision made for reviewing the EPAs.

Indeed, apart from the more fundamental issues that have been adequately ventilated prior to our signing the agreement, we were concerned that there wasnt a provision in the agreement for review. We were very pleased that Guyanas request to have a five-yearly review was accepted by the EU, almost in the final hours of the conclusion of that agreement, the Foreign Minister noted.

Rodrigues-Birkett said that the CAIRFORUM region remains the only region to have completed a comprehensive EPA with the EU to date.

She told legislators that in 2007 the EU put in place a Council Regulation, which allowed ACP countries to have duty and quota free access to the EU market until full EPAs had been concluded and implemented.

Last year, she said, the EU put forward a proposal to amend that regulation for ACP countries which had agreed and initialled full or interim EPAs with the EU, but had not signed or ratified these agreements.

This new proposal, which was adopted in September, last year, seeks to remove 17 of the 36 countries from the list. However, if any of these 17 countries proceed to take steps towards ratifying their interim EPAs or agree to full regional EPA by January 1, 2014, they will continue to benefit from the trade preferences under the 2007 regulation.

She said with effective lobbying and solidarity within the ACP group, the date has been pushed back to 2016, adding, I must say that the CARIFORUM group, of which Guyana is a part, is not affected because we have concluded a full EPA; however, the ACPs solidarity was necessary.

Guyana now joins Antigua & Barbuda, Belize, Dominica, and the Dominican Republic that have already ratified the agreement. Ten European countries have also ratified the accord.