Barbadians are being encouraged to take advantage of the opportunities being afforded under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
This was underscored recently by consultant to the EPA’s Implementation and Coordination Unit of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Errol Humphrey, during a recent interview with the Barbados Government Information Service.
Mr. Humphrey said: "We [at the Implementation and Coordination Unit] want to encourage both private and public sector agencies to take advantage of the Agreement. In the case of the former, they need to be more aggressive in seeking to exploit market access opportunities in the EU, and with respect to the latter, they must be more proactive in developing projects for institutional strengthening which can benefit from EU support."
The EPA was signed by 14 CARIFORUM states in October 2008, (Haiti signed in December 2009). It is a comprehensive, reciprocal Trade and Development Agreement between the European Union (EU) and CARIFORUM Member States that involves trade in goods and services between the EU and the ACP countries, as well as the liberal removal of trade barriers.
Regarding the reciprocal nature of the Agreement, he noted that it was asymmetrical so that access for European businesses in CARIFORUM was based on a phased liberalisation schedule over 25 years, whereas access to the EU market was immediate for almost all Barbadian products.
"When you look at access in goods, that tends to be fairly straightforward. Almost all products from Barbados can access European markets, free of any duties, provided they satisfy the Rules of Origin for preferential market access," he explained. However, he pointed out that there will be some restrictions until 2015 with respect to preferential access for sugar-based products, for instance, candy, syrups and related items.
Mr. Humphrey expressed regret that companies seeking to export food products would continue to face non-tariff barriers until Barbados was able to put in place an appropriate sanitary and phyto-sanitary regime. He admitted that this was a complex and expensive undertaking, but was absolutely necessary in order to facilitate Barbadian manufacturers trying to export food products to the EU. However, he indicated that there might be some light at the end of the tunnel, because a project coordinated by the Ministry of Agriculture was under way to address the sanitary and phyto-sanitary requirements. It would include building laboratories, developing an appropriate administrative structure and drafting the necessary legislation.
Concerning services, the EPA Implementation official observed that market access in this area was "a little more complicated, because services are traded internationally under different modes of supply," but that the export of services offered many opportunities for Barbadians.
He said that the EPA provided market access into Europe for Barbadian Contractual Service Suppliers in 29 sub-sectors, including areas such as accounting, architecture, engineering, management consulting, travel agencies and entertainment services. There was also a special protocol on cultural cooperation, which provided for a wide range of cultural activities and exchanges of cultural products.
Mr. Humphrey explained that one of the key differences for providers of entertainment services before and after the EPA was the fact that the Agreement gave legally binding rights of access to markets for professional entertainers. Consequently, he remarked: "If an international superstar like Rihanna wanted to perform in Europe, it is unlikely she would have any problems. The EPA provides that access for the less well known professional entertainer, who might otherwise face difficulty entering an EU Member State to satisfy a contract to perform."
The EPA Implementation and Coordination Unit, Foreign Trade Division, has published a number of EPA information booklets, outlining the benefits of the Agreement for business services exporters, cultural services providers, persons interested in innovation or intellectual property protection and tourism industry operators, among others. Copies of the booklets are available from the EPA Implementation and Coordination Unit, Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, "The Heritage", 35 Pine Road, Belleville, St. Michael.
For more information, interested persons should contact the Unit at 434-2150 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org.