By Reinhardt Jacobsen
BRUSSELS (IDN) – As the African, Caribbean, and Pacific Group of States (ACP) girds up its loins for talks on future relations with the European Union (EU) after the Cotonou Agreement expires in February 2020, the Caribbean Forum of the ACP States (CARIFORUM) has resolved that a new pact must take into account “the inherent and exogenous vulnerabilities” of the Caribbean region as critical elements in the negotiations.
The ACP Group of 79 States, constitutes 48 countries from Sub-Saharan Africa, 16 from the Caribbean region and 15 from the Pacific. Together they make up nearly 41 percent of 193 member countries of the United Nations. Besides, Africa with a population of 1.28 billion is home to 16.64 percent of the world population and accounts for more than 87 percent of 55 members of the African Union. Nearly 44 million people who live in the Caribbean countries make up 0.58 percent of the world population.
A statement of the CARIFORUM Council of Ministers, which had a special meeting in St. Kitts-Nevis on March 26-27, said that they recognized “the fundamental importance and relevance of recent global agreements including Agenda 2030, the Paris Declaration on Climate Change and International Agreements on development financing.”
They reiterated that the CARIFORUM States – Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Cuba, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago – “share common values and common interests with the African and Pacific States of the ACP Group and remain committed to further building the partnership with the EU.”
With this in view, for the CARIFORUM States “the Intra ACP and ACP-EU relationships are important, meaningful and valuable.”
They declared: “The successor agreement must be a legally binding agreement built on the acquis and negotiated with the EU at the all-ACP level. In this regard, CARIFORUM has agreed its negotiating positions within the context of the ACP negotiating framework.”
They specified the elements the successor agreement must include. It must take into account the inherent and exogenous vulnerabilities of CARIFORUM States as critical elements; and secure continued access to development financing for CARIFORUM States.
The 2020 treaty must also take into account “the development priorities of the ACP, including CARIFORUM’s priorities, and must aim at sustainable, inclusive and resilient development of the ACP regions.”
The CARIFORUM Council of Ministers declared: “CARIFORUM States will remain actively engaged in the ACP preparatory process leading up to the adoption of the ACP negotiating mandate.”
Underlining the importance of the St. Kitts-Nevis gathering, CARIFORUM Director General Percival Marie, said the meeting was being held at a crucial time when post Cotonou negotiations between ACP group of States and the EU are about to commence. Besides, it was taking place when the EU and the United Kingdom are in discussions on the exit of the UK from the EU, ‘Brexit’.
The Director General informed that the CARIFORUM was also in discussion with the UK in a rollover agreement between the Caribbean region and the UK “to ensure that there is a smooth transition without any loss of trading opportunities” between the Caribbean and the UK when the UK would have left the EU.
In his official welcome remarks, Mark Brantley, Premier of Nevis and Minister of Foreign Affairs and Aviation in the Federal Government, stated that the region is faced with a situation when the “tectonic plates in our engagement with the European Union continue to shift.”
Brantley added: “It is a time which requires us to simultaneously, one, grapple with implementation of a CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA); two, assess the impact of the exit of the United Kingdom from the European Union – Brexit, in an effort to mitigate against; three, ensure the rollover of the EPA into a CARIFORUM, United Kingdom Free Trade Agreement, preserve the level of market access into the United Kingdom market…; and four, consider our options for future engagement with the European Union, Africa and the Pacific in the post-Cotonou era.”
Minister Brantley said that the region boasts a rich legacy of cooperation between the ACP group of Countries and the European Union. He encouraged his colleagues to allow the decisions from the meeting to “set us and the generations to follow on a firm footing that will redound to the sustainable growth of our regions, countries and all of our peoples in the year 2020 and beyond”.
ACP Secretary General Dr. Patrick I. Gomes, who also attended the Council meeting, says: “We in the Caribbean have to pay great attention to what are our strategic priorities, whereas in the ACP we have identified three strategic pillars or priorities.” These priorities include linking trade with investment, services and industrialisation.
“We are not going any longer for the single commodity export orientation. That is part of EPA (Economic Partnership Agreement) now. But we must link that with investment, services and industrialisation because we have to get value added out of our raw materials in a much more aggressive way,” the ACP Secretary General said in a recent interview.
The Caribbean countries are not primarily interested in aid, he added. In fact the Caribbean middle income countries have moved out of the grant assistance, “but there will be other avenues to leverage what is called blending facilities with the European Investment Bank.”
The ACP, said Gomes, would seek to address development cooperation in relation to technology transfer, research and innovation, to enhance capacity — both organisational and capacity of the group’s raw materials.
Equally important, though a contentious area is of political dialogue and advocacy “which again is endorsing very strongly the rule of law, good governance, fundamental human rights.”
CARIFORUM members are signatories to the Georgetown Agreement, which was signed in 1975. All participating States in CARIFORUM, with the exception of Cuba, are signatories to the ACP-EU Partnership Agreement or ‘Cotonou Agreement’ and the EPA, respectively. [IDN-InDepthNews – 01 April 2018]
Note: Parts of this report are adapted from the St. Kitts and Nevis Information Service (SKNIS) Press Release.
Photo: Flags of CARIFORUM Member States. Credit: SKNIS
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