ACP warnings for Caribbean following Brexit

Friday, July 01, 2016

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BRUSSELS, Belgium (CMC) — The Secretary General of the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group, Dr Patrick I Gomes says the implications of Britain’s decision to leave the 43-year-old European Union (EU) could be far-reaching on the ACP and may give rise to many consequences for trade, services, investments and development finance assistance.
Britons last week voted by a 52-48 margin to leave the EU and the vote also led to the resignation of Prime Minister David Cameron, who will step down in October. Caribbean countries are still analysing the likely impact the vote will have on their economies.
The Guyana-born Gomes in a statement on Friday, said in each of the areas, the ACP-UK relations have been longstanding and mutually beneficial, not only for Caribbean countries, but for the ACP Group as a whole.
He noted for instance that as a contributor of at least 17 per cent to the European Development Fund (EDF), the UK has been consistent in its support and has argued in favour of making the European Development Fund (EDF) less cumbersome in its regulations.
“With the UK outside of the EDF Committee the ACP will lose an ally of great value, “Gomes said, adding “beyond development financial assistance, the area of greatest concern for Caribbean countries will be in trade in goods and services, investment and technology development and transfer with the preferential arrangements provided under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), signed in 2000, revised in 2005 and 2010 but coming to an end in 2020”.
He said also the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) signed in 2008 has indefinite provisions for duty free, quota free trade and the provision of services under preferential conditions.
Gomes said despite the relatively slow pace of implementation of the EPA, a basic question that will be posed by the ACP Group to the UK is the extent to which they will continue to honour the provisions and obligations of the EPA.
“This is an area that will call for tough negotiations by the ACP Group and will be clearly linked to what concessions come out of the “divorce settlement” between the UK and the EU,” he added.
The negotiations are expected to last up to two years after the UK has formally notified the EU of its intention to withdraw from the Union. But there is speculation that such a notification will not be made until Cameron’s successor is identified by the ruling Conservative Party.
“While all this means there is some time before the ACP will know what are the substantive areas in the “divorce agreement” of the UK and EU, the ACP Group is setting about pre-emptive actions and will adopt a multi-pronged strategy with a view to securing interests of the ACP member states, as best as possible under the favourable provisions in Cotonou and the EPAs, as well as in the case of Haiti and other LDCs, the provisions of the Everything-But-Arms (EBA) Agreement.
“This allows duty free/quota free trade with Europe in all goods except military arms and equipment,” the ACP Secretary General said.
Pre-emptive measures include detailed analytical work on the volume and value of exports to the UK market by ACP countries and for what commodities; along with regulatory requirements of health and safety standards for specific commodities.
“Any such data analysis on which to base our negotiating positions must draw on support of the private sector who are mainly the exporters, in collaboration with commercial representations in the UK,” said Gomes.
He said such a strategy will require coordination of efforts at national levels and in the regional organisations, in this case CARICOM and CARIFORUM along with parliamentary representatives.
“The latter will be encouraged to invite their counterparts to raise questions in the UK Parliament pointing to the importance and value of trade in goods and services between the ACP countries and UK,” he added.
Gomes said while the waiting period of formal notification to the EU by the UK and subsequent negotiations proceed, the ACP Group will pursue a positive approach that will seek to strengthen mutually beneficial relations with both the EU and the UK.

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