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EU Warns of Trade Consequences to the Region's Delay on New EU Proposal

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Monday, May 21, 2007 – The European Union (EU) has warned that it will not institute a Plan B on its position on future trade with the Caribbean region. In the current round of trade negotiations the European Union is proposing to accommodate Caribbean trade only under a quota free/tariff free environment.

EU's Director for Free Trade Agreements Karl Falkenberg said time is running out for the region. He said the Caribbean must define its position now, in terms of market access offers and the acceptance to basic rules in investment and public procurement.

He says the EU wants to help but it also wants to see a commitment from the Caribbean to the present round of negotiations.

“We will have to jointly face the reality that either we have taken our fate in our hands and define jointly before the end of this year what trade relationship we want to have or have to fall back on less preferential market access, with very unfortunate but very real consequences for many farmers, banana producers, rice producers, sugar producers and other industries in this region,” the EU Chief Trade Negotiator warned.
This view has been strongly opposed by St. Lucia's Minister for Trade, Industry and Commerce Honourable Guy Mayers, who said his criticism of the new EU regime is common with that of other regional trade officials.

Mr. Mayers said managed markets with some of the preferences remaining is best for small economies of the Caribbean region as opposed to the quota free/tariff free proposal being offered by the EU.

He said, “The small size of a number of these countries seems not to matter and is assumed away as an irrelevant factor in this current phase of globalisation. It can be argued that small economies have both advantages and disadvantages, in particular disadvantages associated with limited economies of scale, less diversification and macroeconomic autonomy.”

Minister Mayers said the EU is re-writing its previous commitment to the growth of small former colonies to further facilitate the advancement of the developed world.

The concerned representatives spoke at a gathering of regional parliamentarians in St. Lucia on the shaping of the trade agenda to promote regional integration and competitiveness for CARICOM, in light of the EPA and other trade negotiation challenges.

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