Three and a half years after the signing of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) the regional private sector has been urged to get on board, instead of passively standing on the sidelines.
The admonition has come from Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Valeriano Diaz, who says it is perplexing to hear business persons lamenting that they do not know much about the EPA.
“We live in the information age and given the time since the signature of the agreement, this kind of defeatists attitude is difficult to understand. Business people who are interested in penetrating extra-regional markets should be aware of what legislation needs to be in place in their countries so that they can lobby government to have such legislation enacted in a timely manner.
The EU Ambassador who was speaking at a Caribbean Export media launch said entrepreneurs should also know the necessary requirements which will assist them in accessing elements of the EPA, which are beneficial to their enterprise. Ambassador Diaz noted that there is a perception regionally that enough benefits have not accrued from the coming into force of the EPA, but however reminded that ownership of the EPA in the Caribbean belongs with regional governments.
“They have to ensure that the legislative and other frameworks are in place so that the private sector, entrepreneurs and others can reap the benefits which the EPA offers”, he said.
The diplomatic said when he referred to legislative and other frameworks he was speaking of the amendment of legislation to reflect what is in the EPA agreement as pertains to such issues as investment and sanitary and phyto-sanitary measures, as well as the legal implementation of the relevant harmonized system to facilitate the scheduled tariff reductions.
“All of these measures, once implemented will create the environment for entrepreneurs to use as a springboard to accessing the EPA and also other future trade agreements to be signed with other countries.”
Ambassador Diaz said that despite regional EPA ownership was the business of Caribbean governments, the EU had not abandoned it them, since is has allocated 165 million euros to CARFORUM for regional integration and EPA implementation.
Only yesterday in Guyana, the EU and CARIFORUM signed a financing agreement in the amount of 47 million euros, part of the overall assistance, to go towards the EPA implementation process. A breakdown of some of the interventions include 11.6 million euros that will go towards strengthening of the sanitary and phyto-sanitary systems in the region and this will be managed by the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation in Agriculture; 7.8 million euros will assist with the dismantling of technical barriers to trade and will be managed by the Caribbean Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality; 4.5 million euros will assist with regional governments with fiscal reform, a process which will be overseen by the Caribbean Regional Technical Assistance Centre; while Caribbean Export will receive 3.2 million euros to accelerate access to services under the EPA.
European Member States are also contributing to the EPA transition process. The British through their Department for International Development has been providing assistance both to individual countries and also agencies such as Caribbean Export through their Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration trust Fund. Germany through Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) is also doing a lot of work on EPA implementation in the Region.
Please click the link below to read the address given by Ambassador Valeriano Diaz Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean.