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Johnson Smith urges priority for regional issues in

BY BALFORD HENRY
Senior staff reporter
balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

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MINISTER of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade Senator Kamina Johnson Smith says Jamaica expects that the interests of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries will be prioritised in the ACP/EU successor agreement currently being discussed.

She said that she expects a new agreement, that will take the place of the current Cotonou Agreement which expires next year, “where the interests of the developing countries will be placed squarely at the forefront”.

The minister was speaking at Monday's opening ceremony for the Cariforum-EU (European Union) Regional Consultations on a successor agreement to the 18-year-old ACP-EU Cotonou Partnership Agreement, at the Jamaica Pegasus hotel in New Kingston.

Senator Johnson Smith noted that the structure of the negotiations between Cariforum, which includes Caricom states plus the Dominican Republic and Haiti, and the European Union, has centred on a regional protocol.

“It is our expectation, therefore, that the regional element of the protocol with Cariforum must be enhanced in the foundation of the ACP agreement,” she said, adding that they must also resonate with the region's priority interests if the combined result is to play a meaningful role in the attainment of the ACP countries development goals.

“We have long recognised that agreements of this kind cannot be done in a vacuum and without due consideration for the real concerns of our people,” she added.

The media was only able to attend the signing of two agreements for budgetary support for the Jamaican Government, of close to $3 billion, which was held on the ground floor of the hotel. Guests then went to the 17th floor for the signing of the eleventh EDF Caribbean Regional Financing Agreements, and the first 25 minutes opening of the Cariforum-EU consultations. The rest of the deliberations were private.

Opening speeches were given by Senator Johnson Smith, EU Commissioner for International Cooperation and Development Neven Mimica, and Caricom Secretary General Irwin LaRocque.

Mimica said that he was happy that the ACP Council has officially endorsed the regionalised approach being taken by the EU in discussing the successor agreement as a guiding principle for the future of their relationship.

“It gives us an opportunity to shape, together, the future of the Caribbean partnership within the ACP partnership framework,” the EU commissioner said.

He noted that the EU has held similar consultations with the Pacific region in March, and is planning to have consultations with the African nations in May.

Mimica said that, from the very beginning, the European proposal was to give the regions a more prominent role in implementing the new agreement.

“We believe this captures more effectively the different regions' unique realities. This is about having a partnership that embraces each region's assets, meet each region's needs, and addresses each region's challenges,” Mimica said.

LaRocque said that the region appreciated the quality of the historical relationship between Europe and the Caribbean.

However, he noted that the parties were embarking on an ambitious programme involving two sets of simultaneous negotiations and, while it is important to progress equally on both fronts, it is also important that the regional protocol be finalised for the foundation agreement to ensure consistency and policy coherence in the outcome.

LaRocque added that the negotiations presented an opportunity to forge an agreement to reflect the changing times, including the new challenges and current developments.

He said that, in so doing, the parties must take into account global realities and developments, including the Paris climate change agreement, as well as take into account the increasing economic, social, climatic, and environmental vulnerabilities of the Caricom states.

The conference dealt with issues, such as: The status of the ACP-EU negotiations; Caribbean regional priorities; response from the European Union; and governance of future EU-Caribbean partnerships.


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