GUEST EDITORIAL: Renwick Rose
Renwick Rose is a founding member and Caribbean focal point of the ACP Civil Society Forum, Executive and Steering Committees Member of the World Banana Forum
The history of the Caribbean since conquest and colonialism is one in which trade has played a vital role. Through the 500-odd years of colonialism, slavery and afterwards, in the post-colonial independence period, Caribbean economies have always been outward-oriented, heavily dependent on trade at the global level. The legacy of this today is one of small open economies, very reliant on external factors, dependent and very vulnerable.
Time and again, the region has had to suffer negative consequences from changes brought about in the global economy over which it had no control. The latest example of this was in the so-called “banana wars” in the World Trade Organisation (WTO), where the preferential arrangements that the Caribbean and other members of the ACP (African, Caribbean and Pacific states) had with the European Union, came under attack and had to be removed with dire consequences for the commodity exports of these countries. It was a bitter lesson that the region has learnt which must be borne in mind for the future.
That future is unfortunately already upon us, for the storm clouds of uncertainty are once again hovering over the ACP states. The implementation of the final stages of EU sugar sector reforms alongside public health campaigns against hidden sugars, are like to once again fall heavily on an area of traditional Caribbean exports. The consequences this carries for Caribbean economies is likely to be further compounded by the decision by the United Kingdom, following the 23rd June 2016 referendum, to exit the European Union, the so-called ‘Brexit’. The circumstances of the British withdrawal and the tight timetable for complex negotiations give rise to much concern within the ACP, quite rightly so. Reactions have ranged from alarm to complacency. There can be little doubt that given its dependence on the UK market in its trade with the EU28, the Caribbean will be one of the most severely affected regions.
What is clear is that there is a lack of information on the issue and, out of it, a clear need for informed discussion on the issues involved and the options before ACP states. Public enlightenment and ventilation of the issues, implications, challenges and choices are urgent priorities for these countries and their peoples. This is where this initiative in the series of articles on the epamonitoring.net site is of such vital importance.
Articles in this compilation which look at different experiences in ACP countries in strengthening the functioning of local supply chains, with a view to ensuring local producers can increasingly serve local markets would appear particularly relevant. The need for differentiated international trade rules raised by the South African Minister of Trade and Industry would also appear to have far wider relevance than a purely domestic South African context. While the article outlining the EU’s use of protectionist tools in the agricultural sector would suggest we already have a differentiation in the application of trade rules, but is generally not in ways which favour the developing countries of the ACP
On a personal level, I have been privileged over the past several years to have been engaged in discussions with the site’s Editor, Dr Paul Goodison, on a range of trade and development issues at both formal and informal levels. We have shared mutual concerns about the Economic Partnership Agreements (EPAs) being negotiated, (and implemented in the case of the Caribbean), with different ACP regions by the European Union. Those concerns have pointed us in the direction of urging robust proactive initiatives by ACP states to safeguard their interests in the face of the clouds of uncertainty faced, not least of which, in a Caribbean context, arise from the process of Brexit.
I am delighted to see what has emerged in the form of this series of informative and thought-provoking articles around the issues involved. The series provides a rich source of information which one hopes can be the catalyst to stir decision-makers, governments, academics and intellectuals, and civil society actors to join in the discussion, to assist in developing proposals to deal with the threats posed to ACP economic development and to better prepare citizens and governments of ACP countries to cope with the rapid developments around Brexit and its potential repercussions for ACP states.
I therefore highly recommend this series not just as compulsory reading but as a critical ingredient in our development and preparation to find solutions to the volatile challenges of global trade.
|RENWICK ROSE has been a social and political activist for more than four decades, focussed on trade and development advocacy at the national, regional and international levels.
Until he retired from the Windward Islands Farmers Association (WINFA) he spearheaded the fight to secure markets for banana farmers from the Caribbean in the face of the ‘banana wars’ in the WTO. He played a central role in securing access for Windward Island banana farmers to the European Fairtrade market.
He recently retired as Chairman of regional civil society network, the Caribbean Policy Development Centre (CPDC) and was a founding member of ACP Civil Society Forum and is the current the Caribbean focal point for the ACP Civil Society Forum.
He has been a past Chair (CARIFORUM) and Co-Chair (EU/Cariforum) of the Consultative Committee on the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and remains a member of the Consultative Committee.
He is a member of the Executive and Steering Committees of the World Banana Forum and was recently appointed to the Board of Governors of the Commonwealth Foundation.