Media Center

Press Release


  May 18, 2007

As small and vulnerable economies, Caribbean states have no choice but to deepen their regional integration; it is simply a choice of how quickly to integrate, and how deeply. That was the message Assistant Secretary General Albert R. Ramdin of the Organization of American States (OAS) conveyed to a Saint Lucia seminar that brought together parliamentarians, including trade ministers, from the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), made up of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) states and the Dominican Republic.

The seminar—entitled “Shaping a Trade Agenda to Promote Regional Integration and Competitiveness for CARICOM: The EPA and other Negotiating Challenges”— was organized by the OAS and the World Bank in conjunction with the government of Saint Lucia. It examined the current status of negotiations of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) to govern the new relationship between the European Union (EU) and the African-Caribbean-Pacific (ACP) group of former European colonies. The seminar comes as the Caribbean is being encouraged to finalize its negotiating positions in time to meet the deadline and enable the implementation of the EPA in January 2008.

Sarah Flood-Beaubrun, Saint Lucia’s National Assembly Speaker, and Guy Mayers, the country’s Minister for Trade, Industry and Commerce, as well as OAS Saint Lucia Country Representative Paul Spencer addressed the opening session Thursday, in addition to Ambassador Ramdin, who spoke by live video link from OAS headquarters in Washington. The Deputy Director General of the EU Commission and the Directorate General for Trade, Karl Falkenberg, also spoke at the seminar, which was attended by Saint Lucia’s Acting Prime Minister Stephenson King and several members of the Cabinet.

“Perhaps the most critical tool to achieving the development objectives is through the deepening and strengthening of the region’s integration process, currently enshrined within the framework of the Caribbean Single Market and Economy and the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Agreement,” Ambassador Ramdin noted. He urged the parliamentarians to critically examine the economic development challenges facing the sub-region, the impact of globalization on Caribbean economies and the role of free trade agreements in enhancing development, and to help “chart a course forward that will strategically position the region to benefit fully from the EPA.”

Ramdin recalled that a primary objective of the EPA is “to address not merely the trade between the two regions but also, and more importantly, meet the overarching development goals of the CARIFORUM countries as they seek to reposition their economies to meet the challenges of globalization.” Noting that under the present negotiations CARIFORUM countries are expected to open their markets to exports from the EU on a reciprocal basis, the OAS Assistant Secretary General argued that the shift in the EU-ACP relationship heralds a significant change for CARIFORUM countries, which previously enjoyed unilateral duty-free and quota-free access for their main exports to the EU.

Reference: E-131/07