Minister in Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle. (GP)

CARIFORUM countries have started to do their part to ensure the CARIFORUM-United Kingdom Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) “has life” and is practical for the companies and people who will take advantage of it.

Minister in Economic Affairs and Investment, Marsha Caddle, expressed this view on Wednesday, as she delivered the feature address at a high-level virtual summit, aimed at helping Caribbean and UK businesses capitalise on trade and investment opportunities under the EPA.

Ms. Caddle told her audience: “We in…Barbados, and I know our colleagues around the CARIFORUM region, have done a lot of work on our regulatory regimes and our regulatory systems. And one of the things that we had to focus on is the ease of doing business, not just for large companies, but in particular, for small companies to medium enterprises.”

She noted, for example, that Government was making sure that the Enterprise Growth Fund Limited is a fit for purpose institution, which is able to provide the necessary support at the national level.

The Minister continued: “We need the kinds of models like accelerators and incubators and the kinds of financial literacy support that are going to help companies fill the gaps in knowledge, but are also going to help them to reach out on new and growing technology platforms.”

She said there was a lot of scope at the national level for countries to deepen their understanding of engaging technology, while adding that there was also opportunity for regional cooperation on technology and communications.  

She pointed out that the bulk of trade was no longer crossing airports and seaports but internet ports, thus being controlled by a few international technology companies.

“So, we want to make sure that where there are regional opportunities for commerce across platforms that the UK may have access to, whether their own or others, and that companies in the region are able to sell in that environment.

“We also have to make sure that at the regional level, there is regional regulation of these kinds of gateways to ensure equal and fair access….,” Ms. Caddle stated.

She expressed the view that the greatest privatisation of trade infrastructure was being witnessed at this time, and said officials must make sure that this region has an input into the regulatory framework, to ensure trade and development in that environment.

During her address, the Minister underscored the importance of global clearinghouses, recalling the earlier issues of distribution of vaccines for the COVID-19 pandemic, where the developed world secured more than they needed and the poor countries were prevented from getting access.   

As a result, she opined, the countries’ response to the pandemic from a health and economic perspective was compromised.

“And so, the pandemic has reminded us of how interdependent we are, our common humanity, and the fact that we go nowhere, unless we go together. It showed us the role of mechanisms like global clearinghouses, for things like vaccines, which are critical public goods, and for things like new tools that we have to develop for climate change mitigation and for adaptation to the climate crisis. We have to develop these kinds of clearinghouses, these new institutions for global distribution of public goods now,” she insisted.

Ms. Caddle proffered the view that there was a need for a rules-based system that is agreed on internationally, impartially applied, and included in the published lists that may restrict trade and finance.

“The need for these kinds of rules-based systems is one of the reasons why the long fought, and valiantly, and well negotiated new CARIFORUM-UK Economic Partnership Agreement is so welcomed,” she said.

The Caribbean Export Development Agency, in partnership with the UK Department of International Trade hosted the high-level meeting, which brought together businesses, investors and trade promotion experts. 

The CARIFORUM-UK EPA came into effect on January 1, 2021, and ensures continuity for trade and preservation of market access between CARIFORUM and the UK. 

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