News Center

July 20, 2015

OPENING REMARKS by Hon. Oliver Joseph, Minister of Economic Development, Planning, Trade, Cooperatives and International Business of Grenada at the Third Meeting of the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council


Honourable Jean Asselborn, Minister of Foreign Affairs of Luxembourg and Representative of the Council of the European Union, Mrs. Cecilia Malmstrom, Commissioner for Trade, European Commission and the other members of delegation, Honourable Ministers of CARIFORUM and Heads of CARIFORUM Delegations to this Meeting, Members of the Diplomatic Corps, Ladies and Gentlemen, Members of the Media.

I have the honour to be appointed as the CARIFORUM High Representative and Chair of the Third Meeting of the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council.

This honour would normally have been bestowed on the resident minister — Hon. Carl B. Greenidge, Vice President and Minister of Foreign Affairs of the Cooperative Republic of Guyana – however, he is unavoidably absent today. It is, therefore, my pleasure to welcome our European Union colleagues to the Caribbean and in particular to Guyana. I am sure that you will have an enjoyable stay and that the work that we do today will redound to the benefit of the people of both the Caribbean as well as Europe.

From the outset, I wish thank the European Union for including five (5) CARIFORUM States in the Schengen visa waiver regime. I take this opportunity to encourage consideration of the inclusion of the other CARIFORUM States in this waiver regime.

As we are all aware, the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the CARIFORUM States and the European Union and its Member States was signed on 15 October 2008. All Parties, except Haiti, were provisionally applying the EPA. The Declaration on the signing of the EPA provides for a review to be undertaken after five years.

Article 227 of the EPA provides for the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council to supervise implementation of the Agreement and for undertaking the Five Year Review. The Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council is the highest Joint Body established under the EPA. My very first point related to the implementation of the EPA is that all of the Joint Institutions provided for under the EPA have been established and are now fully operational. These bodies include the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee and the Consultative Committee. The latter body is made up of Civil Society representatives. I make this point in order to underscore that while the EPA is a Trade and Development Agreement, it is subject to scrutiny by the various parliaments as well as by Civil Society.

We are well aware, that the Global Financial and Economic Crisis of 2008 was at its height when we commenced implementation of the EPA. According to all the available information that situation has, in fact, negatively affected the ability of CARIFORUM States to fulfill all their obligations under the EPA and to take full advantage of all the opportunities created by the EPA. In fact, all of the information seems to suggest that the results and benefits of the EPA are mixed. These results are spread over a spectrum ranging from highly successful individual events to areas of the Agreement which have not yet been activated. Today, as representatives of the people of CARIFORUM and the European Union we will undertake a joint examination on the basis of whatever factual information is available to us. We will examine where we have succeeded and why, where our performance has been average and where we have failed to jointly take the actions required by us.

When CARIFORUM States signed the EPA, they did so with high expectations and with an enthusiasm which has always characterized CARIFORUM-EU relations. We had expectations

of an early harvest of the benefits particularly as we were the first ACP region to sign an EPA with the EU. We anticipated that significant benefits would begin to flow particularly from the Services Provisions of the EPA. In hindsight, we underestimated the level of effort which would have been required in relation to commitments made and the level of the effort required to extract the potential benefits of the EPA. Perhaps, in our enthusiasm we were over optimistic and had not anticipated some of the challenges with which we would be faced and the constraints which would inhibit our collective expectations.

Today, we have an opportunity to objectively review how far we have come, what challenges we have experienced, what we have been able to achieve so far, and what constraints affected us. Today, we have an opportunity to map out the path that we must take. Our original objective cannot be changed at this point. In fact, we must make the EPA, constraints and experiences notwithstanding, contribute positively to the sustainable development of the Caribbean people.

When we exchange views on this review we must examine a number of the critical areas of the Agreement. We must pay particular attention to how we monitor implementation and impact the Agreement. We must examine what we have been able to do on Development Cooperation and what remains to be done. We must clearly identify the capacity constraints which have impeded CARIFORUM in its attempt to take advantage of the provisions of the EPA. We must review our performance on trade in goods and agriculture and fisheries and determine why we have not done as well as we could have. We must scrutinize our performance on Investment and Trade in Services and exchange views on what we could have done better. And, we must look at specific issues including how we can operationalize the provisions in the EPA for Cultural Cooperation.

It would be remiss of me not to publicly acknowledge the support which we have and continue to receive from the European Union. In fact, I wish to make specific reference to the Agreement establishing the Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme of the 11th European Development Fund signed between CARIFORUM and the EU in Brussels on 11 June 2015. That Agreement is valued at Euro 346 million and is intended to be spent on Regional Economic Integration, Crime and Security and Climate Change including Disaster Risk

Reduction and Alternative and Renewable Energy. The sum set aside for Regional Economic Integration includes provision for EPA Implementation support.

We cannot afford to turn back. As a region, we have set the example for our other colleagues in the ACP Group of States. It is most likely that they will be eagerly awaiting the outcome of the Five Year Review of the EPA. We must not disappoint them. Our analysis must be clear and objective. Our conclusions must be precise. Our recommendations for a way forward must be focused and targeted. We must continue to advocate the CARIFORUM-EU EPA as an important tool for sustainable development. We must enable others to learn from our experience.

Permit me to complete this short statement by reaffirming confidence in the EPA and by giving the pledge that CARIFORUM States intend to fully collaborate with the EU in seeking to fully implement the Agreement for the benefit of the people of CARIFORUM and the EU. As a region, we must also ensure that the benefits of the EPA begin to filter down to the people of the Caribbean. In all of what we do we must put people at the center. History will judge us based on how we convert the potential of the EPA into opportunities and benefits for our people. We will need the continued support and assistance of our European Union partners.

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