The fight for a fair deal in sugar
By Ian McDonald
November 3, 2002
|Related Links:||Articles on the Caribbean|
|Letters Menu||Archival Menu|
CARICOM (including Guyana) also sells sugar to the European Union under the Special Preferential Sugar agreement which came into force on July 1st, 1995 for 6 years and which has been renewed for a further 5 years. This agreement gives lower quotas and these vary from year to year according to the needs of EU refiners. The price in this agreement is slightly lower than in the Sugar Protocol. In 2001/02, through the EU’s EBA initiative, Least Developed Countries were given access to 15% of the market, rising by a further 15% annually, at the expense of the previous holders of quotas under this agreement. This aspect of the EBA initiative is being protested. It is good that the Least Developed Countries should gain access but it is grossly unfair that this access is not additional access in Europe but instead is access taken away from sister developing countries.
Access to the EU market under the Sugar Protocol and Special Preferential Sugar agreement has been, and remains, crucial to the sugar industry in Guyana which in turn remains vital to the economic development and social stability of the country. Guyana needs economic diversification but diversification will come in addition to sugar, not instead of sugar. Diversification will be impeded and made more difficult if the economy is penalized by sugar’s decline which is exactly what happened in the 1980s.
The vital access provided by the Sugar Protocol agreement is currently threatened by moves in certain quarters in the EU and at the WTO connected with the relentless drive to impose unbridled free trade and the supremacy of unadulterated market forces. These hypocritical attempts to saddle the developing world with trading arrangements basically inimical to poor, weak, vulnerable and developing countries are being increasingly resisted.
Small, poor developing, vulnerable economies like Guyana’s simply cannot survive successfully in the threatened new environment. For the sake of development (the current WTO round of negotiations is declared to be a “development” round), for the sake of the alleviation of poverty (the EU says this lies at the heart of their trade policy) and for the sake of a non-disruptive entry into the mainstream of world trade (everybody says that this is their aim for small, poor vulnerable countries) - exceptional arrangements must be made - “special and differential” treatment must be given - for countries like Guyana. This is essential. We risk the danger of becoming a “failed state” and therefore a burden on the world community if this is not fully appreciated and acted upon.
In Guyana’s case the benefits of the access we enjoy for sugar through the Sugar Protocol must be extended indefinitely so that this most vital industry is given time, and can continue to depend on the “bankable assurance” provided by this access, to continue its excellently conceived programme of adjustment, expansion, improved productivity and increased competitiveness.
In the Cotonou agreement between the ACP and EU, Clause 36 (4) clearly calls for the benefits of the Sugar Protocol to be preserved. This must be given practical effect in the coming negotiations between the ACP and the EU.
The European Union’s EBA initiative, while good in principle, in the case of sugar is deeply unfair. A way must be found to right this wrong which is the cause of great loss in the sugar industries of Guyana and the Caribbean. The EU must act in the spirit of the EBA initiative and fix this obvious deficiency in it.
Our leaders, our diplomats, our negotiators, our private as well as public representatives, our media, must not make the terrible mistake of seeming to accept that sugar “preferences” are going to disappear soon, for instance by the end of this decade. These preferences certainly need not, they rightfully should not, they definitely will not disappear if we do not allow ourselves to be deceived and intimidated by opposing vested interests and the media they control, if we build on what we have already achieved, and if we stand up for our long and well established rights in coming negotiations described by everyone - rich and poor countries alike - as a “development” round with the declared purpose of “alleviating poverty.”