Wednesday, 19 February 2014

‘EPA a game changer for region’

Mikael Barfod, Head of the European Union Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean States, believes the European Partnership Agreement (EPA) can be a game changer for Caribbean countries, particularly at this time of stark economic challenges.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export), in conjunction with the implementing partners CARICOM Secretariat and the Ministry of Industry and Commerce of the Dominican Republic (DICOEX), have been awarded responsibility for the implementation of a 3.2 million euros programme by the European Union (EU) towards the implementation of the 10th EDF Services Sector Component.

The Head of Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean
from the European Union, Mikael Barfod, handing over a
cheque to Caribbean Export’s Executive Director, Pamela
Coke-Hamilton, while Ambassador Colin Murdoch, Chairman
of Caribbean Export; and Barbados’ Minister of Foreign Affairs
& Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, look on.
Implementation of the services component will be a collaborative effort between the Agency and implementing partners CARICOM Secretariat and DICOEX.

Speaking last Friday at the Radisson Aquatica Resort in Barbados at the Caribbean Private Sector Consultation, Barfod maintained, “The EU remains committed to the process of implementation of the CARIFORUM Secretariat on the implementation of the 10th EDF which focuses on regional integration, including EPA implementation. We are also in the process of programming the 11th EDF for approximately £350 million, of which £110 million has been earmarked for regional integration and EPA implementation.

However, he did highlight, “The responsibility is on the private sector to take the initiative to capitalise on the opportunities presented in the agreement, especially in the area of services. Even with capacity issues, the private sector needs to use the provisions which have been made available as they are the primary beneficiaries of the agreement.”

Barfod outlined, “Our interest in the EPA goes beyond any market access that we may gain through this trade agreement. Selling more of Europe’s goods and services is not a priority for the EU; regional development and integration is. The services component of the EPA represents one of the concrete ways that Caribbean businesses and entrepreneurs could reap tangible, economic benefits. Although Caribbean countries are net importers of goods, they are net-exporters (or suppliers) of services. The services sector in most CARIFORUM countries is a significant contributor to the GDP, accounting for more than 50 per cent of GDP in most cases, and over 60 per cent for the OECS members states.”

He highlighted some of the benefits to the privates sector – the agreement allows the commercial presence of CARIFORUM firms in the EU, including the possibility for people to travel temporarily for business purposes across most sectors. The commitments under the EPA cover a range of sectors in which Caribbean businesses and entrepreneurs have a recognised comparative advantage. Services within the EPA and the related market access commitments of the EU are the most far-reaching of their kind and at the forum Ambassador Barfod also went into more detail on the potential benefits. (NB)

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