Secretary General of ACP urges Caribbean to negotiate new agreement with Britain post Brexit

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Accorfing to CANA, the Secretary General of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, Dr. Patrick I Gomes, says it will be in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries favour to quickly negotiate new trade agreements with the United Kingdom as it moves to leave the European Union.

The UK is due to leave the European Union on 31 October this year with or without any Brexit deal and Gomes told the Caribbean Media Corporation (CMC) that he believes the Caribbean would need to have relations with both UK and the wider Europe in the post Brexit era, adding that the relationship with Europe, whether it is one without the UK will still be very important in terms of “our political ties and also our combination of  resources in the international arena like in climate change overall.

“But also in terms of investment and access to technology. But also there will be a substantial amount of development finance to continue under new terms of course and we know these terms will be important.

“But along with the UK there will be of course a link of the Caribbean and UK post Brexit and we are putting on the table there should be no less than the duty free quota free provided now by our access to the European Union as a whole”.

He said the work is being prepared and that “the benefit of that work is also seeing how we prepare the Caribbean pillar, which in the post Cotonou Agreement with Europe would see certain areas that we would also want to address in dealing with the Caribbean-UK alone.

“So rather than the EU-Caribbean as a pillar, you will have the Caribbean-UK”.

He said with Brexit and the termination of the contribution of development finance from the UK to the European pool as a whole, “we will have to negotiate as part of a relationship between the CARICOM and the UK post Brexit, how we will have trade, how we will link with development finance and what will be the other conditions..

“So it will be a subject for negotiations in certain areas. They may not be areas such as sugar, but there may be areas related to small and medium enterprises, there are areas that we will have to specify and put on the table.

“Therefore the discussions on that have already begun by looking at the areas in which UK’s development finance that goes into the EDF (European Development Fund) have been covering, one of which has been to do with governance.”

“They want to look at human rights, capacity building, public-private sector reform. They have a lot of social security issues…so we will have to negotiate on the basis of proposals we want to put forward with a fixed amount”.

Gomes said that the roll-over of the trade agreement is already being considered through CARICOM “so that duty free, quota free and all the phytosanitary regulations that are applicable in Europe will not be punitive on the Caribbean, but will be along the same lines”.

The Guyanese-born diplomat said trade relations post Brexit and the development finance post Brexit will have to be negotiated.

“We don’t know what amount will go to the Caribbean because their (UK) allocation will be going to other developing countries. They will be dealing with Sri Lanka, they will be looking for their own arrangements with India etc, so it will be a negotiated issue,” he said, reiterating it would be in the Caribbean’s favour to negotiate as soon as possible.

Meanwhile, Gomes told CMC that the negotiations with Europe on a new accord to replace the Cotonou Agreement linking the ACP and the EU that was signed in June 2000 in Benin’s largest city. It entered into force in 2003 and was subsequently revised in 2005 and 2010.

It is regarded as the most comprehensive partnership agreement between developing countries and the EU and in 2010, ACP-EU cooperation has been adapted to new challenges such as climate change, food security, regional integration, state fragility and aid effectiveness.

The fundamental principles of the Cotonou Agreement include equality of partners, global participation, dialogue and regionalisation.

He described the new proposed agreement as “a departure from previous agreements” noting that this new agreement “has a foundation which has the common provision, but also some cross cutting themes where we emphasis questions of gender, capacity building, where we emphasis youth and also looking at entrepreneurial skills that will link into small medium enterprises”.

Gomes said along with the foundation and the general principles dealing with human rights, rule of law, more specific areas in terms of industrialisation are also on the table.

“We are putting a great emphasis now on our value chain and how you see at each stage in the value chain applications of research and innovation to either enhance or improve our production process, but also linking to our marketing and the type of products that the market is demand of.

“The other aspect of this new agreement post Cotonou …a 20 year agreement, will be the fact that you will have three regional pillars. So there will be great attention to the specificities of Africa, taking into account of Continental Africa and their interest of a Continental Africa free trade area.

“Similarly for us (Caribbean) there will be another pillar for the Caribbean-EU looking at our specificities, addressing questions of women, gender (which() are very different from Africa.

“Thirdly will be the specificities for a Pacific-EU pillar and that’s where we emphasising a lot on oceans, fishing, marine resources and that will also bring the Caribbean and the Pacific into a closer relationship in terms of working how those two pillars complement each other on areas such as ocean governance, trade, protection of illegal unregulated and unidentified fishing.”

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