Prime Minister Freundel Stuart has defended his administration’s stance on the Dominican Republic/Haiti citizenship dispute in the wake of criticism by an Opposition Member of Parliament.
The country’s leader indicated in the House of Assembly today that his Government has looked at the issue.
At the same time, he said, the matter was a complex one, which had been discussed with representatives of Haiti on at least two occasions.
However, he said Haiti’s president had asked CARICOM to put further discussion on hold until the matter has been resolved.
Opposition MP Kerrie Symmonds had earlier chided Government for its protracted silence on the dispute which could see an estimated 210,000 Haitians being stripped of their Dominican citizenship because of their parents’ immigration status.
Symmonds, the parliamentary representative for St James Central, was at the time debating the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) Bill. The pact was signed in 2008 between the European Union and CARIFORUM countries, including CARICOM and the Dominican Republic.
Symmonds, a former junior foreign affairs minister, said six years on CARICOM was yet to develop the capacity to facilitate accreditation between the region and the Dominican Republic.
The situation, he pointed out, had been made more complicated by political inertia, the non-performance of the Competition Commission, the absence of mutual accreditation agreements and the need for more funds to be pumped into the Barbados Coalition of Services.
“We have to get the accreditation right if it is going to be that our service providers do business meaningfully within the European Union. By extension we need to be in a position where we can test the credentials of persons who are coming from the European Union . . . to do business here and to compete with our service providers,” he suggested.
“At the core of the EPA, especially as it relates to services, was the expectation that there would be a CARIFORUM regional accreditation entity which would be capable of accrediting service providers in the Dominican Republic and in CARICOM itself . . . [but] if we have not gotten it right in CARICOM, then we are in a hopeless state of affairs when it comes to CARIFORUM.”
But even as Barbados looks at the EPA, the Opposition MP warned Government to keep a sharp eye on what he termed as “the largest single agreement the world has ever seen” between Canada, the United States, China, Japan and other economic powers.
As a result, Symmonds said, the region’s failure to hammer out a deal with Canada that was almost identical to the EPA by the June 30 deadline, could have serious implications for trade with Barbados and other regional states.
“The mind of the Prime Minister should be on what are the implications for his small, fragile, micro-economy relying heavily as it does on services and the export of services, many of which are exported to Canada, and what would be the impact of this mega trade pact, which would see virtually one half of the globe locked into an agreement with Canada and benefit from market access with Canada on terms that we would be outside of because we have not been part of a successful effort to get the trade agreement with Canada . . . ,” he said.