Last week, more than 40 of nearly 80 third world or developing nations signed on to the new economic partnership agreement between the European Union and its former colonies in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific (ACP). However, a number of Caribbean and African nations have backed away from signing for now because of concerns about the EU imposing some controversial western values on these countries.
The new Samoa Agreement replaces the Cotonou Agreement that the two groups had signed back in 2000 and basically governs aid and trade arrangements between Europe and countries which it had formerly colonized.
A number of social and academic activists in the Caribbean in particular, have railed against the news deal, urging governments not to sign the documents because of concerns that references to human and other rights in the agreements will eventually force the region to amend domestic legislation allowing for same sex marriages, the introduction of sex education in state schools, and related issues. EU and ACP officials who had worked on the documents during months of negotiations leading up to the signing in Samoa last week, say there are no such references in the agreement and activists are reading way too much into the various clauses without justification.
Nonetheless, Jamaica, Trinidad, Antigua, St. Lucia, St. Kitts, The Bahamas, Grenada, and Dominica have delayed signing the deal, with authorities in Jamaica and Trinidad in particular being urged by civil society groups not to sign because such will open the door to Europeans imposing LGBTQ-plus demands like same sex marriages on local societies. Guyana has also not signed because authorities have made a rather strange request for a reservation relating to economic migrants and refugees. Flabbergasted EU and ACP officials say they have nothing to work with from the Caricom head office nation and it is up to Guyana to come on board when ready as they are not even sure what the reservation means and intends. Cuba has also delayed signing but the reason is unknown. Those who have not signed have until mid-next year to do so.
Of those in the Caribbean which have not signed on, Jamaica was among the first to air its objections in public, with at least 15 civil society groups piling on the pressure for Jamaica to refuse to do so. The Andrew Holness government has come under severe pressure from these groups in a country which is globally known to abhor same sex relations especially when it involves men with men.
Announcing the signing delay last week, Foreign Minister Kamina Johnson Smith said this will delay further consultations with domestic groups to ensure no local laws are breached.
“Throughout the negotiations which concluded in 2021, the government had taken on board the views of the various stakeholders, including members of civil society. After what was in fact three years of challenging negotiations, the government was satisfied that the language of the text in the final agreement would not supersede Jamaica’s domestic legislation. Notwithstanding, the government has taken note of concerns which continue to be raised by stakeholders in the domestic space, so we will continue consultations with the aim of providing assurances regarding the government’s unfailing intent to always protect the interest of Jamaica and Jamaicans with the laws of Jamaica as our guide,” Johnson Smith said.
With Jamaica backing away for now, Trinidadian Catholic Archbishop Charles Jason Gordon has also criticized the Samoa agreement, saying its human rights clauses will cause social trouble in the region. “They will have to impose abortion legislation, transgender, LBGTQ, comprehensive sex education, a whole range of values will be imposed because of the signing of that document. The EU is imposing upon us an ideology that is not ours and a value system that is not ours. And if we don’t understand and wake up and smell the coffee quickly we will find ourselves with values, with laws, with expectations and with things being touted as right that has nothing to do with us Caribbean people. Wake up and smell the coffee. It ain’t far away, it is right here. Thank God for that. Our government got wind of it, have seen and understood and they are saying they don’t have enough information to be able to sign. Thank God for that. Jamaica came out clearly and said we are not for sale, “ said Archbishop Gordon, according to the CMC News Agency.