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(CARICOM Secretariat, Turkeyen, Greater Georgetown, Guyana) Jamaican Prime Minister, the Honourable Bruce Golding, advised his Caribbean colleagues that they had to address real problems which would directly impact the lives of every man, woman and child as they considered the issues related to the negotiation of an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

These, he said, included whether or not to continue raising revenue from import duties and other border taxes. “Such revenue continues to contribute to the economies of countries in this grouping including Jamaica,” he added.

Mr Golding was speaking at the opening of the Special Meeting of the Heads of State and Government of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) at Montego Bay, Jamaica on Thursday, 4 October. Eleven of the 15 Member States of the grouping are represented at the meeting, with six at the level of Head of State or Government.

The two-day meeting ,which concludes on Friday 5 October, includes two sessions with the EU Commissioners for Trade, Mr. Peter Mandelson, and for Development and Humanitarian Aid, Mr. Louis Michel, on Thursday afternoon and Friday morning. The Heads of Government held a brief meeting with the Commissioners on Thursday morning.

Mr Golding, Chairman of the meeting, said the Region would have to consider how the void in national budgets would be filled, if the funding from import duties and other border taxes were to be removed. He said that in these negotiations, “we are also called upon to consider whether our farmers and manufacturers can compete with imports from Europe, which on the agricultural side, remain heavily subsidised.”

The Prime Minister told the delegates that the Region must also remain aware that the EPA should not make ACP, and thus CARIFORUM countries, worse off than they were under the Lome/Cotonou Arrangements.

“As a newcomer to the process, I am concerned about the frenetic pace of the negotiations and our ability to meet the deadlines and whether we are compromising our regional and national interest in the haste to conclude these negotiations,” he added.

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