"Nichts mehr davon, ich bitt euch. Zu essen gebt ihm, zu wohnen.
Habt ihr die Blöße bedeckt, gibt sich die Würde von selbst."
Friedrich Schiller
  July 2008 FOOD

Caribbean Nations Balk at More Trade Liberalization

At the just-concluded annual conference of the nations of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM), member nations discussed delaying, until September at the earliest, the signing of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

As discussion at the summit indicated, there is no consenus on signing an agreement that will open 90% of Caribbean markets to duty-free EU imports over the next 25 years. The summit was supposed to issue a declaration on the proposed signing by no later than August 30, but failed to do so.

Guyana's President Bharrat Jagdeo is a key opponent of the EPA, and is refusing to sign until he gets an accurate assessment of how his population feels about it. "I am very worried that we are giving up economic sovereignty to the EU," by signing the agreement, he said. It may be hard to withstand the "might" of the European Union, and its "bullying tactics," Jagdeo told reporters, especially if other governments sign. But, he added, "I am not going to give up fighting, and I want my people to know exactly what we are entering into." Jagdeo has the lead responsibility for agriculture in CARICOM.

David Jessup, Director of the Caribbean Council, wrote in the {Jamaica Gleaner} July 6 that Jagdeo's stance reflects a growing "change of political mood" in many small nations around the world about trade liberalization. Against the backdrop of a deepening global financial crisis, which finds many advanced-sector nations "teetering on the brink of recession," it's lawful that Caribbean nations would opt for delay in signing the EPA. In fact, globally, Jessup notes, "all trade relations and relationships will need careful reevaluation, to ensure that the outcome does not create long-term instability." There is grave concern among governments that they won't be able to finance national budgets, or bear the burden of high food prices, which could lead to social unrest.