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After six years, no Caribbean trade with Europe under EPA

Featured Jesus Orus Baguena, head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Jamaica Jesus Orus Baguena, head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Jamaica
GEORGETOWN,  Guyana, December 25, 2014- Guyana’s Foreign Affairs Minister, Carolyn Rodrigues-Birkett is concerned that six years after it was signed, the Caribbean is yet to  reap any benefits from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

carolyn-BirketteRodrigues-Birkett says among the reasons for this, is that stringent visa rules impact the movement of members of Caribbean cultural industries to Europe.

In addition, she says a European Union review of the EPA as well as a study by the United Nations Economic Commission for Latin America (UNECLA) indicate that

Caribbean producers are facing several constraints including the high cost of energy as well as poor infrastructure.

The Guyanese Foreign Affairs Minister says the review and study are currently engaging the attention of the 14-nation Caribbean Forum of the African Caribbean Pacific (ACP) group.  

Rodrigues-Birkett pointed out that every effort should be made by both the Caribbean and European signatories of the agreement, to ensure that trade intensify under the EPA.

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) is a scheme which seeks to create a Free Trade Area (FTA) between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States, (ACP). It is essentially a response to continuing criticism that the non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreement offered by the EU is incompatible with the rules of the World Trade Organisation.

Signed in December 2008, the CARIFORUM-EU EPA was the first such agreement to be signed between Europe, and one of the six signed with sub-regions of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) group.

epa agreementSome 27 European Union member states and 14 CARIFORUM states (except Haiti) were signatories to the document which replaced the Cotonou Agreement of 2000, in which the EU unilaterally granted ACP countries non-reciprocal market access to Europe on more favourable terms than those enjoyed by goods from other countries.

According to JESUS ORUS Baguena, head of the European Union (EU) delegation to Jamaica, he is  is not convinced that policymakers and the private sector are up to speed on the full range of merits to be derived from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), a landmark agreement.

“The EPA is not a cushion only of increasing trade, but increasing business linkages (and) as you know, there is not a lot of European investments, not a lot of European trade, compared to other regions with exception probably of the tourism sector," Baguena said.

" The idea of having this agreement is to create a lot of linkages between local companies and European companies, which is important because, OK, the activities by a foreign company is good, but I think it is even better if you have a joint venture to take advantage of the trade regime or whatever it is and then you can take advantage."

He continued: "I think there is a need to sit down a little more strategically and see what different options are open for Jamaica; not just say we are just open, which is lazy argument ... if you want to say, well, it's a free-trade agreement so Europe, of course, is stronger so they will sell everything to the Caribbean and we will not be able to sell anything to Europe."

In fact, the EU head of delegation said it is a misconception that countries which have signed such EPAs would see their markets flooded with cheap European imports.

"If you look at the figures, it does not reflect the reality of what's going on, so I would like to encourage and I try to do that with my counterpart here in the Government - to explore the possibilities and the niches where the agreement can be beneficial for Jamaica."

He said the idea that the EU was motivated by self-interest in the EPAs is wrong, because European companies actually want integrated supply chains that build up processing in ACP countries, not barriers that prevent it.

Last modified onThursday, 25 December 2014 16:25
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