The first meeting of the European Delegation to the CARIFORUM—EU Parliamentary Committee was held in Brussels on 1 February. The Caribbean-EU Economic Partnership Agreement provides for the creation of a CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee whose main task is to monitor the application and management of the agreement. It can request of the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council specific relevant information regarding the implementation of the Agreement and make recommendations to the same Council, as well as to the CARIFORUM-EU Trade and Development Committee. The European Members of Parliament were informed that the European Parliament’s President has written to all Caribbean parliaments inviting them to designate 15 representatives to the Joint Parliamentary Committee (one per country). The President also proposed to hold the first joint meeting on 15-16 June in Brussels.
EU Trade Commissioner Karel De Gucht addressed the committee covering 3 points:
1. Doha Development Agenda as he just came back from a Meeting in Davos. He was quite optimistic about developments at the WTO.
2. Achievements and bottlenecks in the implementation of the EPAs.
– delays on cariforum side to confirm names of regional appointees to the joint trade and development committee – He has written twice to the his counterpart in the Caribbean – response still awaited.
– relationship between the Dominican Republic and caricom neighbours still to be sorted out
– situation in Haiti – little progress and country not applying the agreement and parliament still has to ratify (however he recognised that the situation was very difficult and that for the moment he thought the priority for Haiti was reconstruction. He did not expect them to so anything any soon. His concern was more how to get aid organised there for reconstruction
– need to design systems to get timely information on implementation of EPA
The Ambassador for Jamaica in the debate said that there are indeed big challenges in the region, including at national level, on this complex issue.
The EP Delegation to the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee is scheduled to meet again on 12 April; 4 October and 5 December.
3.State of play in other EPA negotiations
– stressed on lack of progress on epas elsewhere : he re-stated the importance of trade for development, that it would improve the business environment.
– however since last summer, there was some political will reinvigorate the process (JMTC, reflection paper, EU-Africa Summit) where political leaders restated their shared commitments to finalise the EPA
– Now it is time to see how political messages translate into real action. Some developments to be seen in some regions. For instance, Central Africa and ESA are re-engaging in the process after a long silence
– SADC- Market access request being discussed with South Africa. However, South Africa has been “the major bottleneck” in advancing the process. One of their pre-conditions to continue to engage in the process is to have more market access on EU market for Agriculture, which EU is not prepared to give. And recently De Gucht cancelled its mission to Mozambique as he was not very happy about South Africa making conditions to engage in the negotiation (he said it is not the way of doing business).
– Some slow down in West Africa due to administrative issues in regional organisations
European Economic and Social Committee also met on 1 February in Brussels to discuss the composition of the Cariforum-EU Consultative Committee (foreseen by the Caribbbean-EU EPA) membership. The EESC informed civil society organisations that a website has been created that they can use to declare their interest in becoming involved in the committee, once the official “Call for an expression of interest” is out (the wesbite is ready but not yet online). All CSOs and academics that respond will be put on a roster and can elected 4 CSO and 2 Academic members in the EU part of the Advisory Committee. The Joint Council decision to launch the website will probably not come before the first session of the Joint Trade and Development Committee. The fist session of this committee is foreseen for 31 March – 1 April in Barbados.
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