Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Statement to the European Parliament on the EPA Havelock Brewster

It is to be regretted that this process of conception of the Agreement, one that purports to represent an Economic Partnership between a group of some of the largest and most wealthy States in the world and a group of poor micro-States, had not been more transparent, more democratic and more pro-development. A good opportunity to craft a best- practice model of international development cooperation has been missed…

Download full address: Havelock Brewster

Friday, November 28, 2008

ACP PRESS STATEMENT (November 15, 2008)


The banana companies in African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States maybe forced out of business following the European Union’s decision to negotiate a Free Trade agreement (FTA) with Central American countries in what the ACP Group describes as on “too generous” terms.
The ACP Group expressed shock that only a week after the EU signed the first Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with an ACP region (CARIFORUM), which supposes to secure, and expand preferential access for ACP bananas into the EU market, the EU has gone ahead to negotiate an FTA with the Central Americans in terms which pose serious threat to ACP preferences.

The EU’s market access offer for bananas in the Framework of the FTA under negotiation might include an initial reference import tariff for bananas, which will be lower than the current applied tariff. Also, there will be a rapid decrease over a relatively short period to a final import tariff landing zone, which is lower than the figure that was indicated by ACP countries as the minimum tariff for the necessary preference that would enable them to continue their export of bananas to the EU.

The ACP understands that the EU plans to lower the current levy on competing bananas from certain Central America States of 176 euros per tonne to 95 euros over ten years.

The Chairman of the ACP Banana Working Group, Ambassador Gerhard Hiwat of Suriname, said that the new offer to Central America would mean the end of the banana industry in all the banana producing countries of the ACP Group.

The chairman believes that EU’s action also contradicts the objectives of the EPAs it signed with the Caribbean and interim agreement initialed with some African Banana exporting countries, and seriously questions the ACP-EU partnership.

The Ambassador of the Dominican Republic, His Excellency Dr Fredrico Alberto Cuello Camilo, re-iterated that the EU is negotiating with Central America on “too generous” terms.

He said that if the negotiation between the two parties is successful it would put ACP exporters out of business, adding that it would also result in the dislocation of economies and loss of jobs in the ACP countries concerned and might even impact on neighboring countries.

The Ambassador stated that in his country alone 15,000 families depend on bananas for employment, and they have also employed a lot of Haitians.Dr Cuello Camilo said that most of the economies that rely on bananas would collapse if the EU pushes ahead with the planned agreement with Central America.

The Ambassador of Jamaica, Her Excellency Mrs. Marcia Gilbert-Roberts, said the reduction of tariff from 176 Euros to 95 Euros would make it impossible for her farmers to compete on the European market.

Delegates from African banana exporting nations like Côte d'Ivoire, Ghana and Cameroon did also express the same concerns. The Charge d’Affairs of the Eastern Caribbean States, Dr Arnold Thomas, said that banana has been a source of livelihood of the states he represents and now it has been threatened.

The ACP appeals to the EU to honour the partnership and cautions that it’s the EU’s actions towards the Central Americans, would not send a right signal to the regions that have yet to sign off to an EPA.

European Parliamentarian says Pacific EPAs must be changed

By Online Editor
4:33 pm GMT+12, 27/11/2008, Papua New Guinea

A member of the European Parliament has told the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) – European Union (EU) joint parliamentary assembly meeting this week in Port Moresby that free trade deals initialled between the EU and Pacific countries must be changed to reflect the development needs of the region.

Glyn Ford, the Member of the European Parliament responsible for reporting on negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Pacific countries said he would recommend the European Parliament vote “no” to the interim agreement unless contentious issues in the interim EPAs are addressed.

Outlining concerns about the agreements for PNG and Fiji, Mr Ford said the European Commission should allow Pacific countries to use export taxes for development purposes and that EPAs should include adequate protection for infant industries. Mr Ford also said any new deal on services must allow Pacific workers entry into Europe to provide services.

Mr Ford raised concerns about intellectual property protection, saying new rules in the EPA should not be “just for Western technical artefacts”. He also said opening up public procurement to foreign business must be “consistent with Pacific states’ needs”.

Pacific Network on Globalisation coordinator Maureen Penjueli welcomed the intervention from Mr Ford. “We urge all members of the European Parliament to support Mr Ford’s recommendation and vote no if the European Commission fails to accept renegotiation of contentious clauses within the current interim EPAs,” said Ms Penjueli.

PNG and Fiji initialled interim-EPAs in late 2007 to protect market access for exports of tuna and sugar to Europe. If PNG and Fiji go ahead and sign the interim EPAs, the deals then go to the European Parliament for discussion and approval.

However, PNG and Fiji remain unhappy with the terms of the interim agreements. Throughout 2008, Pacific Trade Ministers have told the European Commission, the body responsible for negotiating Europe’s trade deals, that rules on export taxes, infant industry and the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ clause contained in the interim EPAs should be changed.

Today, Mr Ford asked the European Director-General for Development Louis Michel, if the European Commission would offer “feasible alternatives” that would allow Pacific countries to maintain market access to the European Union if they choose not to sign an EPA. Mr Michel responded in one word, saying “yes”.

Ms Penjueli said the EPA proposed by the European Commission posed serious dangers for Pacific countries – including dramatic losses in government revenue and the cutting off of policy space that could be used to stimulate development.

“The European Commission continues to be completely unreasonable in its negotiations with the Pacific,” said Ms Penjueli. “Given that the EPA has not been designed to meet the Pacific’s development needs, and that the Commission has shown a reluctance to move on key issues for Pacific negotiators, now is the time to start looking at alternatives.” She said the European Union should offer immediate access to the EU’s“Enhanced” General System of Preferences (GSP-plus) that would allow Pacific states to continue to access European markets, and that Pacific countries “should formally request these alternatives”.

More than 100 parliamentarians from across 27 EU countries and 79 ACP countries are meeting in Port Moresby this week to debate trade and development issues affecting their relationship as part of the 16th session of the ACP-EU Joint Parliamentary Assembly.


Papua New Guinea currently has an export tax on the export of logs (worth well over K100million each year). PNG Forestry Minister, Belden Namah, also announced earlier this year plans to ban all round log exports by 2010 to encourage development of the local forestry industry. Under the terms of the interim EPA initialled by PNG in 2007, PNG will not be able to maintain export taxes on logs or impose new bans on log exports if it goes ahead and signs the deal.

Fiji currently has an export ban on round logs which has helped develop its local furniture industry.

Solomon Islands also has an export tax on round logs which accounts for around 14% of government revenue.

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

The free trade agreements (FTAs) result in more unrestricted capital flows and financial services


The FTAs negotiated by the US and EU with developing countries also include a chapter on services and (sometimes a separate chapter on) investment. In the case of the EU's FTA negotiations with ACP countries in the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) this results in GATS 'plus plus' as can be seen in the EPA signed between the EU and the Caribbean group (i.e. Cariforum States):

  • because of GATS art. V, developing countries have to make quite substantial liberalisation commitments,
  • the EPA includes elements which are not yet decided in the GATS negotiations or even elements which have been rejected in GATS negotiations,
  • liberalisation of investment in non-services sectors is being subjected to the to the same rules as services investment, which include a hybrid mix of different GATS rules.

During FTA negotiations, the financial services sector is a major target of EU to achieve liberalisation. This can also be seen by the many articles on liberalisation of financial services in the FTAs the EU has signed with Chile and Mexico. The Caribbean EPA contains far reaching, sometimes modified[1], elements of the GATS Annex on financial services and the GATS Understanding on Commitments in Financial Services (see above).

During current FTA negotiations, the EU tries to introduce obligations on authorities to implement standards which would guarantee stability for their financial services sectors - an attempt which the Caribbean negotiators refused. The international standards which the EU wants to include in FTAs are many of those which are described in chapter 1 and which were hardly negotiated by developing countries, are:

  • the Basel Committee's "Core Principle for Effective Banking Supervision",
  • the International Association of Insurance Supervisors' "Insurance Core Principles",
  • the International Organisation of Securities Commissions' "Objectives and Principles of Securities Regulation",
  • the OECD's "Agreement on exchange of information on tax matters",
  • the G20 "Statement on Transparency and exchange of information for tax purposes" and
    the Financial Action Task Force's "Forty Recommendations on Money Laundering" and
    "Nine Special recommendations on Terrorist Financing".

The Parties also take note of the "Ten Key Principles for Information Exchange" promulgated by the Finance Ministers of the G7 Nations, and will take all steps necessary to try to apply them in their bilateral contacts

Worrying restrictions to control capital flows
A very worrying aspect of the FTAs such as the Caribbean EPA is that it restricts even further the authorities' capacity to control capital flows. The rules go beyond what is being agreed in the GATS which already prohibits restrictions on all payments for current transactions in sectors which have been liberalised under GATS. It also goes further than what the Cotonou agreed about capital movements. However the Caribbean EPA -which is based on the model for all FTAs the EU is currently negotiating- goes further to:

  • prohibit restrictions on all payments for current transactions between residents of the signatory countries,
  • prohibit restrictions on the free movement of capital relating to direct investments with regard to transactions on the capital account of balance of payments,
  • to require that measures ensuring the integrity and stability of a Party's financial system shall not be more burdensome than necessary to achieve their aim, and shall not discriminate against financial service suppliers of the other Party in comparison to its own like financial service suppliers,
  • to limit the ways safeguard measures with regard to capital movements can be taken: only "in exceptional circumstances" when payments and capital movements between the Parties cause or threaten to cause serious difficulties for the operation of monetary policy or exchange rate policy in one or more [signatory States]; and only those safeguard measures with regard to capital movements "that are strictly necessary may be taken" for a period not exceeding six months.

Such rules prohibit countries to have the necessary flexibility to prevent a financial crisis or to act during times of financial crisis to protect the financial and other needs of the society of the host country. There are some provisions to deal with balance of payments problems, but these are made conditional.[2]

[1] For instance the rule in the Caribbean EPA on introducing new financial services is somewhat more nuanced than the GATS and stipulates: Each Party shall permit a financial service supplier of the other Party to provide any new financial service of a type similar to those services that the Party permits its own financial service suppliers to provide under its domestic law in like circumstances. A Party may determine the juridical form Š a decision shall be made within a reasonable time the authorisation may only be refused for prudential reasons is required

[2] See the Caribbean - EU EPA: Part VI - General And Final Provisions

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Dealing With a Bad Deal: Two Years of DR-CAFTA in Central America

Council on Hemispheric Affairs (COHA), Washington D.C.

Critics argue that for over a decade, the United States has been striving to create commercial in-roads into Latin America by way of bilateral free trade agreements that benefit U.S. economic interests to the detriment of those of Latin America.

A recent example of this trend was the passage of the Dominican Republic – Central America Free Trade Agreement (DR-CAFTA), a pact designed to promote trade and foreign investment between the U.S. and its Caribbean Basin neighbors. When it was being negotiated, advocates of DR-CAFTA repeatedly assured skeptics that the agreement was a “win-win” situation, arguing that it would economically benefit all countries involved…

However, two years have now passed since some Central American countries implemented DR-CAFTA’s mandates, and governments, farmers, and workers across the region are beginning to suffer the consequences of an unfair deal... More>>>

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Africans Should Confront ''Blind Governments'' on EPAs

The People Left Out!

By Stanley Kwenda

PHOTO: Sarah Mwandiyambira, a Zimbabwean cross-border trader

HARARE, Nov 11 (IPS) - African governments came under fire for ‘‘blindly’’ negotiating the controversial economic partnership agreements (EPAs) and not making an effort to educate ‘‘ordinary people’’ on what they were negotiating. (ROK's Note: Sounds Familiar?)

The politicians, who gather in Geneva for World Trade Organisation (WTO) meetings and in Brussels for EPA talks, should know that they are there on behalf of their citizens and not themselves, said Rangarirai Machemedze, director of the Southern and Eastern African Trade Information and Negotiations Institute (SEATINI). SEATINI helps to build African capacity in world trade talks.

IPS interviewed him at a ‘‘reflective meeting on the state of the economy and sustainable alternatives’’, held last week by the Zimbabwe Coalition on Debt and Development (ZIMCODD) in Zimbabwe’s capital Harare. ZIMCODD is a coalition of like-minded Zimbabwean civil society organisations working in the field of trade and economic development. ‘‘Resources permitting, we need to educate people on what their governments are negotiating for them,’’ Machemedze told IPS.

ZIMCODD is holding meetings in an attempt to step into the breach. ‘‘This meeting is meant to basically try and give participants a clear picture as to how a country's economy operates within the global economy. We want to help them understand and give them a clear picture of the global market place,’’ Dakarayi Matanga, ZIMCODD’s director, told IPS.

One of these people is Sarah Mwandiyambira, a Zimbabwean cross-border trader. She had heard about EPAs before but had not had a chance to get a proper explanation in order to understand what they are and what they really stand for. At one time she was close to her tears after she was given the lowdown on how the EPAs will work once they are signed into binding instruments by the European Union (EU) and African countries.

‘‘This is scary. Something must be done to stop the EPAs. I am only a single woman who survives on cross-border trade to send my children to school.’’ The EPAs have been criticised for opening African countries’ markets too quickly to products from the EU, thereby destroying local production – whether agricultural or industrial.

The EU’s efforts to impose new issues such as equal treatment of foreign and local companies when it comes to government procurement, the liberalisation of services, and other issues, have also drawn protest. Said Mwandiyambira, ‘‘I can't believe this is what our governments are negotiating for us. I believe if all Zimbabweans are to be educated on these EPAs they will disapprove of them. They are only there to take away our economic means.

After these discussions I can tell you that this is a very serious issue which we are taking lightly as Africans.’’ Another participant, Sekai Saungweme, a legal and research consultant based in Harare, was left fuming at the Zimbabwean government after gaining an understanding of what the EPAs are all about: ‘‘It's a very sad scenario and one wonders what our governments are getting into. What was on their minds when they initialled the EPAs? Why did they initial such a flawed deal?’’

Machemedze urged African governments to establish a common togetherness when approaching the negotiations, which have been provisionally signed but are still to be finalised. African governments are not doing what they should be doing, Machemedze insisted.

He also blames European governments and other Western powers of using divisive tactics and the carrot and stick approach in trade talks. ‘‘It's a colonial problem. The powerful nations use divide and rule tactics. For example, if an African country is seeking funding for a dam project then that country is told that if you want funding then you must support EPAs,’’ alleged Machemedze, who has been attending trade negotiation meetings over the past four years.

‘‘Midnight calls are the order of the day at these meetings. There are no fair negotiations. There are visits to the hotel rooms of African negotiators at night where they are promised all kinds of aid.’’

Machemedze also contends that even with the existence of an arbitration court at the WTO, African countries will not be able to take on European countries because of the sheer amount of resources that such cases demand.

He believes that Zimbabwe ‘‘should delink itself from international trade. People might say we are in a global village but what has Africa benefited from it? We have to build our local markets first and then trade on a scale that we can sustain. He suggested that African countries should strengthen their local markets and then try and establish trade links with emerging economic giants such as Brazil, Argentina and India.

"At least they can identify with these emerging economies and learn from these countries,’’ Machemedze concluded. (END/2008)

Source: http://www.ipsnews.net/news.asp?idnews=44652

Letter from Ireland, Netherlands and Denmark

Letter seeking Justice for ACP

Rt. Hon. Baroness Ashton
Commissioner for Trade at the
European Commission

The Hague, November 7, 2008

Dear Baroness Ashton,

We would like to take this opportunity to congratulate you on your appointment and we look forward to welcoming you personally at next week’s Development General Affairs and External Relations Council.

As you will be aware, negotiations between the EU and ACP countries on the Economic Partnership Agreements are at a critical stage. We welcome the comments you made at the recent European Parliament hearing, and particularly your commitment to giving a different character to ongoing regional negotiations.

By concluding interim agreements focussing on the trade in goods at the end of 2007, we were able to avoid trade disruption for most of the ACP countries concerned. However, as we are sure you will agree, we have much to do to ensure that EPAs genuinely live up to the goals formulated in the Cotonou Partnership Agreement. We therefore need to ensure that EPAs will actively support regional integration and contribute to a regulatory framework that will stimulate economic development.

If we are to succeed in this, we must be prepared to show more flexibility towards the countries and regions concerned in the next rounds of negotiations. In May of this year, the European Council already underlined how important it is to take a flexible approach to the transition from interim agreements to regional Economic Partnership Agreements and called on the Commission to make full use of the flexibility and asymmetry permissible under current WTO law so as to reflect the different development levels and development needs of the ACP countries and regions. Judging by the vast majority of reactions received from the

To demonstrate our commitment to building trust and confidence with our ACP partners, we believe that the EU should build on the dialogue that has already begun over the past year by responding positively to the specific ACP proposal for an EPA meeting at joint ministerial level. An informal ministerial meeting in the near future would underpin the ‘new approach’ that you have eloquently referred to in the European Parliament and could bring a new political impetus to the ongoing negotiations.

We are sure that, with a renewed political emphasis and stronger efforts at the technical level to address the issues highlighted above, the negotiations can be brought to a conclusion that is conducive to development. Again, we look forward to meeting you in person at the development GAERC next week when there will be an opportunity to discuss EPAs further. We would be very interested to hear your views on the topics outlined above and look forward to a fruitful exchange of views.

Yours sincerely,

Ms Ulla Tørnæs
Minister for Development Cooperation

Peter Power T.D.
Minister of State for Overseas Development,
Department of Foreign Affairs

Bert Koenders
Minister for Development Cooperation
Kingdom of The Netherlands

Source: OXFAM

Monday, November 10, 2008

Vincentians attend Caribbean Civil Society Gathering

P.O Box 817, Kingstown, St. Vincent & the Grenadines
Tel: +1-784-456-2704; Fax: +1-784-456-1383

Date: November 3, 2008
Subject: Vincentians attend Caribbean Civil Society Gathering

Civil Society organizations in the Caribbean have been preparing their input into next year’s sixth SUMMIT OF THE AMERICAS, the meeting of Heads of State and Government of all western hemispheric nations which belong to the Organization of American States (OAS). That meeting is scheduled to be held in Port of Spain, the capital of Trinidad and Tobago, in April 2009 and will be the first one to be held in the Caribbean. Cuba will be the only country in the Americas not represented since it is excluded from the OAS.

More than 100 representatives of civil society organizations from throughout the Caribbean met in Port of Spain last Thursday and Friday (October 30 and 31) to prepare their input. It was the first of three such sub-regional meetings being organized by the Secretariat for the Summit. Among them were two Vincentian participants, Ms. Debra Dalrymple, Director of Marion House, and Mr. Renwick Rose, Co-ordinator of WINFA.

The two-day meeting examined the main areas relating to the themes of the Summit, “Securing our Citizens’ future by promoting human prosperity, energy security and environmental sustainability” and made recommendations in these areas. Mr. Rose was one of the lead presenters on the “Human Prosperity” topic. OAS Assistant Secretary General, Ambassador Albert Ramdin, and T&T’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Hon. Paula Gopee-Scoon, both addressed the meeting, pledging support to and co-operation with civil society co-operation in the Summit process.

Ms. Dalrymple and Mr. Rose are to seek a meeting with Foreign Affairs Minister Hon. Sir Louis Straker, to discuss Vincentian participation in the Summit. They have also undertaken to report to local civil society organizations on their discussions.

Renwick Rose
Nov.3, 2008

Saturday, November 8, 2008

RE: Havelock Brewster's address to the UWI Graduating Class

Dear all,

Havelock has honoured us all; but most of all, he has honoured UWI by allowing them to honour him. He has done us proud, and I feel particularly grateful for his defence of me - and of course of all of us who declined to defer. For me, Havelock has spoken the last word; history will take care of the long-term. But, the Caribbean has to survive while it endures the transition that I frankly thought we had already passed. And that means more work in a different way. Can we do it? 'Yes we can '. Somehow, there is a connection between Obama's triumph and the basis for optimism that in the Caribbean we can yet get it right.



P. S. As a token of my determination not to succumb to the oldness' of being 80, I have just typed the above message with the new voice recognition system - which I commend to you all. It's almost as good as having a secretary again -- almost.! S

Havelock Brewster's address to the UWI Graduating Class

Address to the UWI (Mona) Graduating Class on receipt of at the Degree of Doctor of Laws , Honoris Causa, of the University of the West Indies, November 11, 2008

Forty years ago, (the work of UWI social scientists) was greeted not as the “first port of call for regional leadership”, but with unprecedented hostility. The authors were hounded as communists, Marxists revolutionaries, conspirators with Fidel Castro, at best lunatics. The would-be reformers had passports seized, some expelled from the country, fired, threatened, and one assassinated...

Full address at http://www.normangirvan.info/the-view-from-the-rear-view-mirror-havelock-brewster/

Thursday, November 6, 2008

RE: If America can elect a Black President, why can't Caricom nations agree to pool their sovereignty?

Hi Norman,

You write: “I dislike the assumptions that underlie the question, What can the Caribbean expect from an Obama Presidency? It is not just that the expectations are unrealistic: they are misplaced.” I agree.

However your own question, “If America can elect a Black President, why can't Caricom nations agree to pool their sovereignty?”, also has some underlying assumptions that appear to be unrealistic, if not misplaced.

The comparison between the Obama victory and the pulling together of Caribbean nations is a bit problematic.

You make the point of political constituency: Obama’s “political constituency is domestic. … Overseas, he must obey the imperatives of America’s strategic interests.” The same holds for the leaders of our Caribbean nations: their political constituency is domestic, insular, not regional. That’s exactly what makes it so difficult for our nations to pull together and speak with one voice.

Whereas Barack Obama has to make sure that he appeals to all (or at least a majority of) Americans, no Caribbean leader is compelled to appeal to the entire Caribbean. And whereas all Americans must soon recognize Barack Obama as their lawful Head of State, no Trinidadian or Puerto Rican is required to accept, for instance, Jamaican Prime Minister Bruce Golding as his/her leader.

That does not mean that we should not continue to dream of and fight for a united Caribbean. I fully agree with your statement that “the true meaning of the Obama victory is that we can dare to think the unthinkable, to dream the impossible.” In fact, we Caribbean people are quite capable of unthinkable and inspiring feats, as our Caribbean (hi)story proves: from Toussaint Louverture and the Haitian Revolution to Fidel Castro and the Cuban Revolution.

I think that a second lesson to be learnt from Barack Obama is his explicit recognition of the fact that he could not have won this electoral victory alone and that he will not be able to achieve his presidential goals alone. All true and enduring success requires a collective effort.

It will take much more than a single charismatic leader to unite the Caribbean. We will need to collectively step “Beyond a boundary”: beyond the boundaries of insularism, nationalism and political constituency.

One Love,

Peter Jordens

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

RE: If America can elect a Black President, why can't Caricom nations agree to pool their sovereignty?


This is a truly wonderful piece, not only for its political analysis but also for capturing so well in words the spirit of that moment last night!!

I also agree with your position re the Caribbean. I was asked the same question by one newspaper and said basically the same thing. We need a Caribbean agenda, based on a clear understanding of our own interests. One issue that needs to be on that agenda is the end of the illegal Cuban blockade. But there are very many more.

Can I share this with the Friends of John la Rose google group. There is a debate there about Obama with one comrade Abdul Alkalimat (African American radical activist) is very skeptical and others are taking a more “pragmatic” position.

I myself was going to write a piece about last night and the Obama movement, though it would not be nearly as eloquent as yours! I may still add a few points.


If America can elect a Black President, why can't Caricom nations agree to pool their sovereignty?

It is difficult to overstate the psycho-political impact of the Obama victory. When I was growing up in the 1950s, our dream was that we would live to see the end of apartheid and of the other vestiges of white rule in Africa. That a Black man could be elected to the White House was beyond dreaming—it belonged to the realm of fantasy, like time travel and other kinds of science fiction. Jesse Jackson's face on election night said it all. It wasn't just emotional; it was the face of a man who had been transported to another world. CNN interviewed Bishop T.D. Jakes about his feelings. Bishop Jakes began his response by saying that his father had grown up in a world with 'coloured' drinking fountains, bathrooms, schools and other public facilities. His grandfather had been murdered by racists and his body dumped in a river. It impossible to put into words what Bishop Jakes felt on Tuesday night.

And Barack Obama is not just 'a Black man'. By any measure and in whatever ethnicity, he is obviously an extraordinary person. In addition to his manifest intelligence, brilliant oratory and political sophistication, he is possessed of a deep sense of history and an ennobling vision. Above all, he has the ability to inspire—that rare quality that challenges people to reach above and beyond themselves. The hearts and minds of a good percentage of humanity came together in Grant Park on Tuesday night. The images on the TV screeen of the varied manifestations of the human species gathered in joyful celebration, with those of dancing Kenyans in Obama's  ancestral village cleverly spliced in, mirrored those of the wider world that vicariously participated in the celebration. We were all present at a virtual, global 'One Love' party. In Michelle Obama we saw the Black woman, equal partner as First Lady, breaking the mould of the traditional, domesticated, stereotype; a confident, articulate professional; providing hope and encouragement as a role model for young women all over the world, as does Barack for young men. And when Joe Biden's blonde, blue-eyed family came onstage to join the Obamas in a series of emotional embraces—the white family content, for the first time in the history of US political theatre, to play the supporting role in the customary ethnic pecking order--the symbolism could hardly have been more powerful. We saw, for the first time at last, the possibility of the United States becoming part of a human family where the colour of a man's skin is of no more significance than the colour of his hair.

I dislike the assumptions that underlie the question, “What can the Caribbean expect from an Obama Presidency?” It is not just that the expectations are unrealistic: they are misplaced. Barack Obama may have a global following, but his political constituency is domestic. Within the United States, he must find the means to carry out his ambitious agenda in the midst of an economic crisis that is taking the federal deficit towards the one-trillion dollar mark. Overseas, he must obey the imperatives of America's strategic interests. To attempt to do otherwise would be to court political suicide.

The main difference from the past will not be in ends, but in means, and in style. Obama understands—or seems to understand--that diplomacy, negotiation and winning hearts and minds are more effective means of pursuing American interests than the ready exercise of brute force. And such a willingness to see and understand the point of view of 'The Other' must be welcomed. The opportunities are to be grasped. Only the naive would expect U.S. President Obama to put the interests of other countries above those of the United States; whether in trade, security, or in the matter of offshore tax centers. The responsibility to define and defend our interests remains with us. The opportunities lie in the possibility of more constructive engagement.

No, Obama cannot be our saviour; tempting as it may be for some among us, cynical and despondent about our current politics; to repose their hopes in a haloed foreign figure of undoubted power and charisma and of common ancestry. It was, after all, the coronation of Haile Selassie in a distant land just two generations ago that spawned the Rastafari.

For me, the true meaning of the Obama victory is that we can dare to think the unthinkable, to dream the impossible. For the unthinkable can be within our grasp; and the impossible of today can become the reality of tomorrow. If America can elect a Black man as President, why can't Caricom nations agree to pool their sovereignty so that we can speak with one voice in world trade and politics; and our people walk taller in the world by virtue of their Caribbean identity, as did every person of colour on the morning of November 5, 2008?   And if an African-American named Barack Hussein Obama can mobilise millions of his compatriots of all ethnicities to the cause of creating a more just, equitable and decent society in the United States, that most individualistic and materialistic of nations; why can't this be done in our small part of Planet Earth?

Barack Obama started as one person and created a movement that changed the world. In that sense he is following in the footsteps of Garvey, Mandela, King, and the founding fathers and mothers of the West Indian labour and nationalist movements. They all dared to dream. Another world is possible. Yes, we can.

Norman Girvan

Monday, October 27, 2008

Ashton on plans as new EU commissioner

With regard to Peter Mandelson's bullying - She admits to have heard lots of different stories, but she wants to find out from the ACP countries themselves as to 'where they think we are'

'It's not about unravelling what has already been agreed, but I do think that we need to look as we develop further the interim agreements into full agreements as an opportunity to look at style too and to make sure we have the best possible deal for all of us.'

'I wouldn't be prepared to reopen the whole negotiations, but in looking into extending and expanding the interim agreements there maybe the case for looking again at what has been agreed in the interim agreements because that's relevant to the bigger agreement.'

Watch Video Interview:


Wednesday, October 15, 2008

The President did it! CRNM Couldn't?

New Amendments to the CARIFORUM EPA forged by Guyana acting ALONE

"Regrettably, the CARICOM partners failed to respond positively to his requests to do so, even though these changes would be in the interests of all."

An e-mail received from Prof. Norman Girvan should be a source of comfort as the CARICOM leaders sit today to sign the CARIFORUM EPA. The Prof. simply said:

"This statement has my full support.
Norman "

A Declaratory Amendment to the EPA Paves the Way For Guyana to Sign

By Havelock R. Brewster

"Despite the intransigence of the European Commission, and the failure of CARICOM partners to cooperate with Guyana in addressing the glaring shortcomings of the CARIFORUM- European Union Economic Partnership Agreement, the Government of Guyana has succeeded in getting two important improvements made to the Agreement, through a Declaration to be appended to it. "

This will provide for:

  • A mandatory evaluation of the costs and other deleterious effects of the Agreement in five yearly periods so as to determine where the terms of the Agreement and/or of their application need to be amended; and
  • Some degree of protection for CARICOM as it proceeds to develop the Single Market and Economy, given that the EPA prematurely incorporates policies and measures that have not yet been developed and/or adopted within CARICOM itself.

These protections and the mechanism for revision of the EPA will now permit the Guyana Government to be a party to the EPA to be signed on October 15.

The President had said from the start that Guyana would not be a signatory to the Agreement unless forced to do so under duress, given the substantial losses that Guyana would incur due to the punitive tariffs that would be applied to its exports, particularly of sugar, rice and rum.

He proceeded therefore to seek the cooperation of the other CARICOM States in getting the EC to amend the most harmful provisions, or lack of provisions, in the Agreement. Regrettably, the CARICOM partners failed to respond positively to his requests to do so, even though these changes would be in the interests of all. Guyana had long warned of these harmful provisions.
They include, among others:

  • the weak or non-existent development dimension that was supposed and promised as the center-piece of the so-called Economic Partnership Agreement with the European Union- a French-sponsored review actually referred to the Agreement as “änti-development”;
  • the curtailment of Caribbean development policy-space in several important respects;
  • reneging on commitments undertaken in respect of the WTO negotiations;
  • a number of unsatisfactory features in respect of the provisions on Services and WTO-Plus issues like investment, intellectual property rights, government procurement, e-commerce, and on Trade in Goods as well;
  • pre-emption of CARICOM's development of regional integration instuments in those very areas , including certain of them presently, actively, under negotiation in CARICOM;
  • the astonishing give-away of the MFN;
  • the inexplicable absence of any mechanism for evaluation of the cost and other effects of the Agreement, and commitment, if need be, to revision of the terms, or application, of the relevant provisions;

Without support from the Caribbean Community as a whole, it has not been possible to get all these issues substantively addressed now. Moreover, an initiative through the Grouping of African Caribbean and Pacific countries for a Presidential engagement with the European Union, to be organized by October 31, on such issues - that also affect the African and Pacific States - has been ignored by CARIFORUM.

The Declaration therefore, while it does not address upfront all the issues, ensures that there is adequate protection to ensure that harmful effects are detected, arrested and corrected periodically. It is unquestionably an important concession secured from the EC, for CARICOM as a whole, and one that Guyana can live with.

Guyana to sign controversial EPA under threats

"President Jagdeo last week said top officials of the European Commission and governments in Europe had confided in him that some CARICOM members had asked them to “lean hard” on Guyana to sign the EPA with the EU in its current form. Mr. Jagdeo told reporters at his office the unnamed CARICOM members argued that they would lose face if Guyana were to succeed in getting key changes to the agreement."

Despite his disappointment at the turn of events, Mr. Jagdeo said Guyana remains a strong member of CARICOM. “I don’t allow setbacks on one issue to daunt me…I can’t hold the future of the people of this region hostage based on my current likes or dislikes.”

Wednesday, October 15 2008

GUYANA will sign the controversial new trading agreement with the European Union (EU) under threats to its main exports to the bloc and in solidarity with other countries in the Caribbean, President Bharrat Jagdeo announced yesterday.

But he said Guyana will press for the mounting of a massive lobby for a better Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) within the 79-nation African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) group.

He maintained that the signing of the agreement by the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic at this time is a betrayal of the ACP.

Mr. Jagdeo has opposed the agreement and has pushed for two clauses to be included before Guyana signs on:

** The first is that in its implementation should any of the provisions of the EPA conflict with the CARICOM Revised Treaty of Chaguaramas the revised treaty would take precedence, thereby safeguarding the regional integration process.

** The second is for a review of the EPA every five years to look at the socio-economic impact of the agreement on the people of the region and a commitment by Europe to address the adverse impact.

Mr. Jagdeo said Guyana fought for the inclusion of these two clauses and now other countries are shamelessly taking credit for them.

He said Guyana will also sign on to the EPA if the Generalised System of Preferences (GSP) under World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules is imposed on this country’s exports to Europe.

Head of the Delegation of the European Commission to Guyana, Mr. Geert Heikens, told reporters here, on Monday, that for countries not signing the EPA, there will be no agreement and the GSP will be applied according to WTO rules.

Heikens said the EPA would benefit both parties noting that it addresses not only goods but services and trade issues as well.

President Jagdeo last week said top officials of the European Commission and governments in Europe had confided in him that some CARICOM members had asked them to “lean hard” on Guyana to sign the EPA with the EU in its current form.

Mr. Jagdeo told reporters at his office the unnamed CARICOM members argued that they would lose face if Guyana were to succeed in getting key changes to the agreement.

“I firmly believe it’s a bad agreement for the region and that’s why I continue to fight and seek changes to the agreement…(but) some countries seem more interested in saving face than getting a better agreement”, he said.

Despite his disappointment at the turn of events, Mr. Jagdeo said Guyana remains a strong member of CARICOM. “I don’t allow setbacks on one issue to daunt me…I can’t hold the future of the people of this region hostage based on my current likes or dislikes.”

He said the push by some in the region to sign the deal on October 15 was a “slap in the face” of other members of the ACP that took a stand at their summit which ended earlier this month in the Ghana capital, Accra.

It could undermine ACP unity, he warned, and said the Accra decision can lead to a better EPA for the bloc.

The summit agreed that a troika representing the entire grouping should meet by the end of this month and lobby Europe on the concerns raised about the current EPA and “try to get a more favourable EPA” for the ACP.

“It was agreed that a troika will continue to pursue our concerns at the highest level in the European Union”, he said.

He stressed that by not signing the EPA, Guyana has more to lose than any other CARICOM member and it should have been in the front row of those moving to conclude the new arrangement.

Fifty-three percent of this country’s imports from Europe already come in without any tariffs, so that Guyana, in the first five years, does not have to commit to any serious liberalisation.

It also stands to lose the most because it is the largest commodity exporter to Europe, he maintained.

Guyana’s exports to Europe include sugar, rice and rum.


Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Mandelson Considered a Roughneck

It has always been our contention that one man, Peter Mandelson, held all the ACP to ransom, when in truth and in fact, his masters sing a different tune and dance to a different rhythm. Below is an article which states: "One of Mandelson's last acts as EU Trade Commissioner was to threaten Guyana, one of the poorest countries in the world, with financial penalties that could amount to €70m a year because the Guyanese government has so far refused to join an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the European Union." This is the man we are dealing with. It has been men like these that have defined the destiny of the world. Like the Pope that divided the world into three. See more below...

How Guyana brought out the bully in Mandy

Our pro-rich, neo-liberal system allows men like Mandelson to thrive, says Matthew Carr

Peter Mandelson donned his ermine robes and took his seat in the Lords yesterday, allowing him to return to the Cabinet. However, his spectacular political resurrection was marred by further sleaze allegations, this time regarding his possibly nepotistic relationship with a Russian billionaire.

According to the Sunday Times, the former EU Trade Commissioner recently enjoyed the hospitality of the aluminium tycoon Oleg Deripaska on his £80 million yacht in Corfu. Mandelson has denied these reports and rejected suggestions that his relationship with Deripaska might have anything to do with the EU's forthcoming reduction on tariffs on imports of raw aluminium from six to three per cent. The reports have again raised question marks about the "flawed judgment" of the scandal-prone politician known as "the prince of darkness". But the discussions about Mandelson's character miss a more fundamental point about the economic and political realities of the world we now inhabit.

One of Mandelson's last acts as EU Trade Commissioner was to threaten Guyana, one of the poorest countries in the world, with financial penalties that could amount to €70m a year because the Guyanese government has so far refused to join an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the European Union.

Guyana has criticised various "anti-developmental" conditions of the agreement, including the relaxation of barriers on foreign investment and clauses on intellectual property rights that would make it more difficult for Caribbean countries to patent their own generic medicines.

Similar criticisms of the EU's "free trade colonialism" have been made by other developing countries involved in the EPA negotiations. Various NGOs have also condemned the agreement, arguing that weak Caribbean economies will be swamped by more powerful European producers. Christian Aid has urged Caribbean governments not to sign the agreement, which is due to be formalised tomorrow, calling it "the relationship of the bully to the bullied".

Only Guyana has so far held out, despite a threat from the EU Commission to withdraw its preferential tariff status unless it complies. But the Guyanese Prime Minister Bharrat Jagdeo has admitted that he will have to accept the agreement despite its "anti-developmental character" to avoid economic disaster. No wonder that a report commissioned by the EU's rotating president, Nicolas Sarkozy, condemned the tactics - "pressure, paternalism and threats" - used by the EU commission during these negotiations.

We should not be surprised that the former communist-turned-peer played a key role in railroading lowly Guyana to the negotiating table. Long before he began to rub shoulders with Russian tycoons, the architect of New Labour was one of the more starry-eyed and zealous courtiers of the rich and powerful and has always assiduously pursued their interests. It is easy to be revolted by Mandelson's combination of smarm and flint-eyed opportunism, but it would be a mistake to interpret his political trajectory to deficiencies of character.

For Mandelson, ­ like the New Labour project itself, ­ symbolises the bullying arrogance of the neo-liberal creed that has dominated the world for the last three decades.

It is a world in which powerful countries prise open the economies of the poorest so that private corporations can control their food, their water and their electricity, where governments claim to be powerless to intervene in the workings of the 'free market' and yet are suddenly able to produce undreamt-of sums of money to bail out banks when they fail - our banks, not those of Russia, Argentina or Thailand which once went to the wall without receiving any bail-outs or offers of assistance.

We may well wonder at the motives of Gordon Brown for bringing one of his former political enemies back into the government. But as we shake our heads at the cynicism and moral blankness of the "prince of darkness" we might pause to consider that these vices are not just his: ­ they are part and parcel of the system that allows such men to flourish.
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