OACPS/CARIFORUM & EU: What’s happening now?
By Elizabeth Morgan
There seems to be a view that not much is happening at the Organization of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (OACPS), which includes the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM), and in their relationship with the European Union (EU). That would be wrong. My last update on the OACPS and EU was published on June 2. Since then, work has been proceeding with adherence to COVID-19 protocols.
The OACPS in Brussels has been endeavouring to forge its path as an organization with a wider outreach. Prior to COP26, on October 13, the OACPS joined with the EU to issue a statement on climate change. On the opening day of COP26, November 1, OACPS Leaders issued their own joint statement drawing on work done by their Council of Ministers. On November 9, the OACPS and the EU are scheduled to have a joint high-level side event on climate action and the use of science-based information to build resilience.
As the COP26 enters its final week scheduled to end on November 12, preparations are in full gear at the World Trade Organization (WTO) for the 12th Ministerial Conference (MC12) which is to start on November 30. The OACPS is a major alliance of developing country members at the WTO. This grouping is coordinated by Jamaica.
From what I have read, including from an item out of Fiji, the OACPS Trade Ministers met virtually on October 29 and a main item on the agenda was the preparations for MC12. The OACPS finalized and circulated to WTO Members, its declaration outlining priorities and positions for MC12. The next OACPS Council of Ministers meeting, I understand, should be held at the end of November prior to MC12.
Well, CARIFORUM now has a new Secretary General, Dr. Carla Barnett, as it shares this post with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). According to a Trinidad and Tobago press release, that country, through the Minister of Foreign and CARICOM Affairs, Dr. Amery Browne, assumed the chair of CARIFORUM on July 1. Among Dr. Browne’s first tasks was chairing a special virtual meeting of the CARIFORUM Council of Ministers on August 4. The agenda of this special meeting included consideration of CARIFORUM/EU development cooperation under the EU’s new budget and the new post Cotonou Agreement, and the operation of the CARIFORUM/EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). Note that the EPA five-year review, already postponed due to COVID, is most likely to be rescheduled to 2022.
CARIFORUM would also have approved the OACPS WTO MC12 declaration
The OACPS/EU Post Cotonou Agreement, initialed in April by the lead negotiators, is still to be signed by the parties. There have been a few outstanding issues still needing to be addressed especially on the EU side. These included identifying the “EU Party” to the Agreement, whether this would be the European Union, meaning the Commission, or the European Union and its Member States, referred to as a mixed arrangement. The latter means that EU Member States would also have to sign and ratify the Agreement. You may recall the issue from May, when Hungary was reported to be still having concerns about the Agreement. Nevertheless, it seems that there is support for the mixed arrangement in the EU Council as well as in the OACPS.
Another issue has been the venue and date for signing of the Agreement. Samoa offered to host the signing ceremony and it was thus expected that the Agreement would become known as the Samoa Partnership Agreement. Reports online indicate that the political crisis in Samoa has been resolved with Mrs. Fiame Naomi Mata’afa confirmed as the country’s first female Prime Minister. An article in the The Diplomat of October 1 states that Fiame takes the helm at a difficult time in Samoa’s history and her challenges moving forward are myriad.
On the signing ceremony, I am getting the impression that the EU has not yet confirmed Samoa as the venue. At this point in 2021, it is evident that the signing will be postponed again, possibly to the spring of 2022. This would mean that the existing Cotonou Partnership Agreement will have to be further extended.
So do not believe that nothing is happening at the OACPS, in CARIFORUM, and in relations with the EU. It just requires investigative work to find out.
Submitted by Elizabeth Morgan, Specialist in International Trade Policy and International Politics