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Misgivings on today’s EPA meeting


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THERE ARE some strong misgivings among senior government officials and regional thinkers of the Caribbean Community over an inaugural meeting scheduled for today  in Madrid, Spain  of the Joint Council on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed in 2008 between the European Union (EU) and the CARIFORUM states (CARICOM plus Dominican Republic).As first reported in the Weekend Nation over a week ago, this inaugural meeting, initiated by the European Commission (executive arm of the EU), has been hastily arranged to discuss rules of procedures for implementation of the EPA on the margins of the Sixth Summit  of EU-Latin America/Caribbean  Heads of State and Government.According to the community secretariat, more than 60 leaders of Europe, Latin America, Africa and the Caribbean region, are expected to participate in today’s summit, being convened under the theme Towards A New Phase Of The  Bi-regional Association – Innovation  And Technology For Sustainable Development And Social Inclusion  . . . .While progress previously achieved remains a matter of speculation, in the absence of shared information with the public, it is a matter for hope that this promised “new phase” in cooperation  “for sustainable development and social inclusion” will produce practical results – beyond official rhetoric.Of immediate concern, however, is how prepared are the CARIFORUM bloc of countries to fully and seriously participate with the EU representatives in sensitive discussions on procedural approaches for the implementation of provisions of the EPA in a meeting slated to last no more than two hours and possibly 90 minutes?The procedural issues involve trade, services and economic development. There have long been doubts over the readiness of the Caribbean to seriously engage Europe  in implementation of the EPA. The pertinent question, therefore, is how much progress could reasonably be achieved, without the Caribbean sacrificing fundamental principles, from a rushed inaugural session of the EPA,  in less than two hours, as designed by strategists of the European Commission – ahead of the primary purpose of today’s event in Madrid – namely the EU/LAC Summit? Will capitulation to Europe’s agenda be the order of the day because of some EU “funding” involved?In a recent exchange of views on the value of today’s meeting of the EPA Joint Council, the Caribbean economist Dr Norman Girvan had observed that “anyone with the slightest experience in these matters would know that rules of procedures carry power relations within them, steering the participants into certain directions and foreclosing other opinions…”Consequently, a pertinent question arises: How seriously prepared is the CARIFORUM group in their review and analysis of what the European Commission is proposing as procedural approaches for EPA implementation?  We must await the results of today’s Joint Council Meeting and the EU/LAC Summit in Madrid.