Final financial agreement on sugar to be signed with EU next week

European Union (EU) Ambassador to Guyana Robert Kopecky will meet Finance Minister Dr Ashni Singh next Thursday to sign the financial agreement on sugar for 2013.

Kopecky told Stabroek News that June 20 was the date designated to sign the agreement, which is in its last year under the second Multi-annual Sugar Programme 2011-2013.

This comes as trouble looms between African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries and the EU. Officials in the EU have begun discussions on whether the 2015 cut off date extending quota free imports from ACP countries may need extending. Thus far the European Commission, the executive body of the EU, is pushing to maintain the deadline while the European Parliament has proposed a new 2020 deadline and the European Council has suggested a compromise end date of 2017. The European Council comprises the 27 heads of state of the bloc.

In May, Chairman of the ACP Subcommittee on Sugar (ACP Sugar Group) Ambassador PI Gomes of Guyana wrote a letter to the EU Council of Agriculture citing the various concerns that will stem from the Common Agricultural Policy (CAP) reforms being touted. After a report by the European Commission Services in December 2012 revealed that ending the quota would reduce the cost of domestic sugar, making the importation of sugar from ACP countries less attractive, the three EU entities have been divided on a new sugar deadline.

Gomes had said previously that “were the EU, now aware of the commission study, to abolish EU sugar quotas before 2020 it would seriously undermine and call into question the coherence of EU policies and, inevitably, the very basis of our longstanding partnership and the fundamental interests that bind us will be considerably weakened.”

He had stated that the lack of consultation with ACP countries prior to the discussions commencing were against the ACP-EU Cotonou Accord and Economic Partnership Agreements. He noted that with the EU free trade agreement, sugar from ACP countries was in severe jeopardy and there was real potential that ACP exports to the EU would cease altogether.

Since 2006, the EU has made over $24 billion available through the Guyana National Action Plan on Sugar. In 2013, up to an additional $6 billion is to be invested to further enhance the competitiveness and productivity of the sugar sector.

Chairman of the Jamaican Sugar Industry Authority Ambassador Derrick Heaven told the Gleaner earlier this week that Jamaica was not prepared for an end date before 2017. He did, however, admit that Jamaica has been aware of the 2015 deadline and while “billions of dollars in compensation,” were received when the EU ended the system of preferential sugar prices from ACP countries the implementation process to prepare the sector has been slow.

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