BRUSSELS, Belgium -- The second meeting of the Joint CARIFORUM-EU Council under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was held at the headquarters of the Council of the European Union in Brussels, Belgium, on 26 October 2012. The meeting delved into challenges that have arisen in the implementation of the EPA and provided political guidance, with a view to ensuring that EPA implementation remains on track.
Thirteen of the fifteen signatory CARIFORUM states were in attendance, with eight delegations led by ministers.
The meeting formally agreed to amend the EPA, in order to allow for incorporation of the commitments of The Bahamas into Annex IV of the EPA, which addresses investment, trade in services and e-commerce. In the lead up to this decision, The Bahamas’ representative delivered a statement in which he referred to the importance of the EPA for economic development in that country.
The meeting also considered reports on efforts to establish institutions of the EPA that have not as yet been convened. In this regard, there were deliberations on efforts to bring into operation the Consultative Committee under the EPA. These deliberations were inconclusive as the EU delegation indicated that it is required to refer a number of elements for consideration by the EU Council, given that positions previously endorsed by that body needed to be amended if there is to be agreement with respect to proposals tabled by CARIFORUM.
With respect to the naming of arbitrators, CARIFORUM and the EU agreed to exchange the list of five arbitrators and agreed to engage in discussions to derive the five neutrals that would complete the slate of fifteen arbitrators.
CARIFORUM reported that eight CARIFORUM states had taken action to reduce their tariffs on goods from the EU and indicated that the remaining CARIFORUM states are engaged in efforts to put in place the tariff reductions required. In addition, CARIFORUM gave the commitment that every effort would be made to meet the deadline of 1 January 2013 for the second round of tariff cuts.
The meeting focused attention on a number of matters of particular concern to CARIFORUM states that have been discussed between the two sides over the past year. Two of these matters pertain to provisions in the agreement that CARIFORUM considers do not reflect its understanding of the position previously adopted by the two sides. The first matter concerns the arrangements applicable to CARIFORUM states regarding the reduction of tariffs on motor vehicles and parts, while the other concerns the rate of duty on certain paper and paper board products applied by Trinidad and Tobago. In both cases, the two sides were unable to arrive at an agreement for adjusting the provisions of the EPA and the Joint Council concluded that these issues would remain on the agenda for further consideration.
CARIFORUM repeated its concern that certain exports to the French Caribbean islands attract taxes higher than those on similar goods from other countries, including EU member states. The EU indicated that these internal taxes were authorized under the EU arrangement and in certain provisions of the EPA, and that they are not discriminatory. CARIFORUM called attention to the fact that the provisions governing taxation on international trade do not permit the application of such discriminatory charges and also pointed to the inclusion in the EPA of a provision which also prohibited such discrimination. The EU undertook to further engage CARIFORUM to resolve this particular problem.
With respect to the final issue of concern to CARIFORUM states, the Joint Council agreed to the issuing of a joint declaration dealing with restrictions based on age regarding used vehicles imported into Barbados, Jamaica, Suriname and Trinidad and Tobago.
In addition, the Joint Council took note of the efforts being undertaken by CARIFORUM to prepare for the monitoring of the operation of the EPA that would help in determining its impact, including the costs and consequences of implementation. The meeting agreed that this exercise was important and urgent, especially given that the first five-yearly review of the EPA is due in 2013.
The CARIFORUM side reiterated its deep concern with respect to differentiation, which is being contemplated by the EU in connection with its new development policy. CARIFORUM expressed the view that GDP per capita should not be the only indicator for determining the approach to differentiation, but that other factors should be taken into account including levels of poverty, vulnerability, climate change and idiosyncrasies associated with small-island developing states and low-lying countries (SIDS) development challenges. The EU reported that its approach to differentiation was undergoing internal consultations and that note was taken of the concerns and views expressed by CARIFORUM.
The fifteen signatory Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific (CARIFORUM) states to the EPA are the independent CARICOM member states and the Dominican Republic.