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Mr. Edwin Carrington, Secretary-General of both CARICOM and the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) of African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) States, will chair the Opening Session of the Caribbean Regional Seminar in preparation for Negotiations of Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) with the European Union, scheduled to take place at Le Meridien Pegasus Hotel on 14-16 February 2002.

The Seminar is part of the Action Plan adopted by the ACP Trade Ministers and endorsed by the ACP Council of Ministers for developing negotiating positions for the next round of ACP-EU trade negotiations, which are due to begin in September 2002.

The Regional Seminar is being organised by the CARICOM and ACP Secretariats, with funding from the European Union. It will provide an opportunity for representatives of Governments, the private sector, labour, regional organisations, academia and civil society to contribute to the development of options which the Region may consider as it seeks to influence the approach of the ACP Group to the forthcoming negotiations.

In June 2000, the ACP and EU signed a Partnership Agreement in Cotonou, Benin, in which they agreed, among other things, to conclude new WTO-compatible trading arrangements, progressively removing barriers to trade between them, and enhancing cooperation in all areas relevant to trade. These new trading arrangements should enter into force in January 2008. The Cotonou Agreement is a comprehensive development cooperation accord with a twenty-year duration, which has as its primary objectives the reduction and ultimate eradication of poverty, the attainment of sustainable development and the gradual integration of ACP countries into the world economy.

The Hon. Clement Rohee, Minister of Foreign Trade and International Cooperation of Guyana, will deliver the feature address. Ms. Adelaide Mkhonza, Assistant Secretary-General, Sustainable Economic Development at the ACP Secretariat; Mr. Vincent De Visscher, Head of the EU Delegation for Guyana and Suriname; and Dr. Richard Bernal, Director General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery will deliver statements at the opening session.

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