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Joint CARIFORUM-EU Press Release

The third phase of negotiations for an Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM countries and the European Union was launched today in Saint Lucia.
CARIFORUM Trade Ministers and European Trade Commissioner Peter Mandelson met on the occasion of the Second CARIFORUM-EC Ministerial EPA Meeting. They adopted the Joint Report on negotiations that took place in Phase II, reviewed progress in EPA negotiations so far, and provided political instructions on the future orientation of those negotiations. In addition to discussing the EPA process, this frank and constructive encounter provided an opportunity for an exchange of views on the World Trade Organization (WTO) Doha Development Round, and commodities of key importance to the Region.
The EPA negotiations are poised to undergo a qualitative shift in focus and specificity. Phase III will define the structure and scope of an EPA, and determine the approach to trade liberalization, with the view to promoting sustainable development in CARIFORUM.
Both sides noted the importance of deepened regional integration to promote the international competitiveness of private sector operators, improve the business environment and boost trade and investment. They agreed that development would be at the centre of an EPA. The pursuit of development is a multi-dimensional undertaking, that seeks to capture the benefits accruing from trade and integration, but also requires accompanying adjustment measures and institutional capacity building.
Technical and financial assistance is important to facilitate the Region’s effective participation in the EPA negotiations, and to support CARIFORUM regional integration. CARIFORUM underscored that timely access to EU resources is essential to maintaining the momentum of EPA negotiations, and strengthening the regional integration process. This was, therefore, the subject of considerable debate at the Ministerial meeting, which called for expeditious treatment of the relevant support measures.
There was an exchange of views on the status of the WTO Doha Development Round. These negotiations are of the utmost importance, as they seek to place development at the centre of the multilateral trade agenda. Both sides sought an acceleration of the preparations for the Sixth WTO Ministerial Conference in Hong Kong, in December 2005.
Commodities of export interest to the Caribbean, such as bananas and sugar, are facing acute difficulties in preparing for radical changes in the EU market. CARIFORUM Trade Ministers made a strong statement that preferential access to European markets currently safeguards the livelihood and welfare of tens of thousands of families in the Caribbean.
Given the vital importance of the banana arbitration process in Geneva, the EU expressed a keen interest in working with CARIFORUM banana supplying countries to obtain a fair and lasting solution. On sugar, the EU acknowledged the painful adjustment that will take place both in the Caribbean and in Europe, as a result of proposed EU sugar reform. The EU pledged to work closely with CARIFORUM sugar producing countries, to assist them in coping with adjustment.
The two sides also discussed vital trade and aid issues relating to the CARIFORUM rum industry. They acknowledged the challenges faced by the Region in this regard, and identified practical ways to advance the industry’s interests.
Both sides reaffirmed their decision to convene the Third CARIFORUM-EC EPA Ministerial Meeting before the end of 2006.
September 30, 2005
Gros Islet, Saint Lucia

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