2008 heralds the beginning of a new era of Caribbean trade as the European Union ushers in the first phases of a new trade pact between regional territories and the 27 members of the EU. What's the big deal about a little trade agreement? Just the fact that the new rules change the fundamentals of how these two trade blocs relate. The CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement replaces the 2001 Cotonou Agreement, which had been largely constructed on protected trade. The new EPA is based on reciprocity – which means that for the first time, the playing field will be level.
Stakeholders and special interest groups have been quite vocal about the entire affair, with some regional governments – like Guyana – insisting that they will not sign the EPA as it stands. The problem is, there's a deadline involved. Sign, or have your goods slapped with higher entry tariffs, which immediately makes them more expensive and therefore less marketable. A few Guyanese bloggers have been speaking out…
Guyana 360 suggests that the nation is being misled:
BHARRAT JAGDEO has been less than TRUTHFUL about the EPA deal. All the fuss about Guyana not signing on to the EPA just got dashed when Dougie Brew, a trade police advisor at the European Commission in Brussels told the BBC that Guyana had written the Commission in March stating its strong support of the EPA and had requested help with its implementation.
Propaganda Press simply links to an Inter Press Service news story, which suggests that Guyana may be “punished” should it not sign the agreement; while Living Guyana, tongue firmly in cheek, wants answers:
Oh Mighty Bharrat tell we what yuh doin. We trust you. We leave everything with you for you are the wise, the mighty, the great, the leader. You are our leader. You know best.
So Oh Mighty Bharrat – to sign or not to sign?
The agreement will affect things like market access, trade related issues, services and investment and legal and institutional issues – and if Guyana does intend to sign the EPA, it will need to do so by tomorrow.