Sir Ronald Sanders (Jamaica Observer) writes that all rum producers in the Dominican Republic and Caribbean Community (CARICOM) countries are facing the grim prospect of losing their markets in Europe. Here are excerpts with a link to the full article below:
Having convinced Caribbean’s negotiators to sign a full Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the 27-nation European Union (EU) on the basis that it was not necessary to include specific language on rum because it was covered in Declaration XXV in the Cotonou Convention, the European Commission (EC) is now reneging on its undertakings and many rum companies face a grave financial crisis.
CARIFORUM countries – the independent member states of CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic – agreed to a full EPA in December 2007 under considerable pressure from the EC including the threat that if they did not sign, a higher tariff would be applied to their vital exports, such as sugar, rice and bananas making them uncompetitive with other countries. [. . . ] [O]n 19th March, a ministerial meeting of EU and African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries initialed the text of the second revision of the Cotonou Agreement, which is the legal basis for relations between the EU and the ACP, with no attention paid to the plight of rum producers. The EC objected to specific language on rum in the revised text, overriding ACP protests that it did not provide the substantial guarantees that the original Cotonou Declaration gave to the rum industry.
In a more sinister development, while the EC has been hiding behind a Council Regulation that prohibits the 18 months extension, it has been busy trading away the small and limited preference that Caribbean rum has in the EU market. Earlier this month–8 March–the EC formally told the Caribbean that they have already settled liberalized tariffs and quotas with Colombia and Peru and are now talking in similar terms with Central American and Andean countries. These deals are accelerating Latin American access to the EU market and seriously undercutting the period that Caribbean rum producers had been led to believe would exist to facilitate the adaptation of their production and their readiness to compete. [. . .] Caribbean rum producers have expressed their “anger” at Europe for “reneging on previous agreements that aimed to ensure a smooth transition into a fully competitive European market.”
Many Caribbean commentators at the time spoke out against the EPA, warning that there should be no reciprocal trading arrangement between small Caribbean countries individually and the huge EU collectively. They also argued that Europe had an obligation – if not rooted in historical exploitation, at least founded in the principles of fairness and equity – to provide Caribbean countries with the means to become less uncompetitive in an international economic system that favors the large and powerful. [. . .]
Letters written on behalf of the region by Belize Prime Minister Dean Barrow, Barbados Foreign Minister Maxine Maclean, and Suriname Foreign Minister Lygia Kraag-Keteldjik to the EC have all fallen on deaf ears. But letters are not enough. . .
For full article, see http://www.jamaicaobserver.com/columns/Sanders-Mar-28_7508032
Image: Postcard of sugar cane harvest in Barbados from http://www.vintagepostcards.org/barbados-british-west-indies-agriculture-caribbean-p-5160.html