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Tuesday, 22 June 2010

Guyana represented at key ACP-EU Council meeting in Burkina Faso

THE African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Council of Ministers met in Quagadougou, Burkina Faso from the 17th –19th June, 2010.  The Joint ACP-EU Council will also hold their Meeting from the 21st – 22nd June, 2010. Guyana is represented by the Honourable Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett, Minister of Foreign Affairs and Ambassador Patrick Gomes, Guyana’s Ambassador to Belgium. The ACP Council discussed several important issues including the status of the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs), trade in bananas, sugar and cotton, climate change and the Millennium Development Goals.

Not unlike previous Council Meetings, the EPAs generated much discussion. Since the EPA process was launched eight years ago, only 27 of the 78 ACP countries have signed full or interim agreements including the CARIFORUM group.An additional 9 have simply initialled Agreements.  Member States of the various groupings expressed concern regarding the many issues that still remain unresolved including Most Favored Nation (MFN), Rules of Origin, market access, export taxes and the need to be sure of the net fiscal impact on the economy before agreements on the reduction of tariffs.These were the very issues that Guyana had raised prior to signing the EPA but eventually had to sign to avoid trade disruptions, as was the case with several others who signed or initialled interim Agreements. The EU is being asked to revisit some of these conditions which the ACP finds difficult to accept. It should be noted that the other five negotiating groups are advocating for an automatic five year review to be included in the EPAs.  It was Guyana that had advocated for this provision for the CARIFORUM EPA. It was expected that there will be a Joint ACP-EU Declaration on EPAs at the end of the Joint Council. However, Minister Rodrigues-Birkett expressed the view to her colleagues that such a Declaration will not encapsulate most of the concerns expressed by Members States in the several hours of discussion. She indicated that while efforts should be made to find common ground on a Joint ACP-EU Declaration on EPAs and indeed on the issues that remain unresolved, it is incumbent on the ACP Council to itself issue a Declaration. This suggestion received widespread support from the Member States and an ACP Declaration is being finalized.