By Roland Joshua
The implications of BREXIT on the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group could be far-reaching and may give rise to many consequences for trade, services, investments and development finance assistance, according to ACP Secretary-General, Dr. P.I Gomes.
In each of these areas, the ACP-UK relations have been longstanding and mutually beneficial, not only for Caribbean countries and other Commonwealth member states, but for the ACP Group as a whole.
For instance, as a contributor of some 17% to the European Development Fund (EDF), the UK has been consistent in its support and has argued in favour of making the EDF less cumbersome in its regulations. “With the UK outside of the EDF Committee the ACP will lose an ally of great value,“ Dr. Gomes said.
“Beyond development financial assistance, the area of greatest concern for Caribbean countries will be in trade in goods and services, investment and technology development and transfer with the preferential arrangements provided under the Cotonou Partnership Agreement (CPA), signed in 2000, revised in 2005 and 2010 but coming to an end in 2020,” he added.
More recent is the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the CARIFORUM Group of countries, CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic that was agreed in 2008 and has indefinite provisions for duty free, quota free trade and the provision of services under preferential conditions.
He said despite the relatively slow pace of implementation of the EPA, a basic question that will be posed by the ACP Group to the UK is the extent to which they will continue to honour the provisions and obligations of the EPA. “This is an area that will call for tough negotiations by the ACP Group and will be clearly linked to what concessions come out of the ‘divorce settlement’ between the UK and the EU,” he added.
The negotiations of the latter are expected to last up to two years after the UK has formally notified the EU of its intention to withdraw from the Union. It has been reported that it is unlikely that such a notification will be made until British Prime Minister David Cameron’s successor is identified by the ruling Conservative Party expectedly in September. But even then, the incoming Prime Minister will weigh his or her options on a date to trigger the notification of divorce.
“While all this means there is some time before the ACP will know what are the substantive areas in the “divorce agreement” of the UK and EU, the ACP Group is setting about pre-emptive actions and will adopt a multi-pronged strategy with a view to securing interests of the ACP member states, as best as possible under the favourable provisions in Cotonou and the EPAs, as well as in the case of Haiti and other LDCs, the provisions of the Everything-But-Arms (EBA) Agreement. This allows duty free/quota free trade with Europe in all goods except military arms and equipment,” the ACP Secretary-General said.
Pre-emptive measures include detailed analytical work on the volume and value of exports to the UK market by ACP countries and for what commodities; along with regulatory requirements of health and safety standards for specific commodities.
“Any such data analysis on which to base our negotiating positions must draw on support of the private sector who are mainly the exporters, in collaboration with commercial representations in the UK,” said Dr. Gomes.
Such a strategy, he said, will require coordination of efforts at national levels and in the regional organisations, in this case CARICOM and CARIFORUM along with parliamentary representatives.
“The latter will be encouraged to invite their counterparts to raise questions in the UK Parliament pointing to the importance and value of trade in goods and services between the ACP countries and UK,” he added.
He said while the waiting period of formal notification to the EU by the UK and subsequent negotiations proceed, the ACP Group will pursue a positive approach that will seek to strengthen mutually beneficial relations with both the EU and the UK.