Consultant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Errol Humphrey, delivering his presentation at the workshop.

Barbadians are again being encouraged to take full advantage of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).??

This plea has come from Consultant in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Errol Humphrey, as he addressed a workshop on the topic: The Roadmap to EPA Implementation in the Manufacturing Sector. It was organised recently by the Private Sector Trade Team and held at the Barbados Chamber of Commerce and Industry’s headquarters, Brittons Hill, St. Michael.

Mr. Humphrey said that the primary objectives of the EPA were to provide and enabling environment for sustainable development; enhance the competitiveness and supply capacity of CARIFORUM private sector enterprises; increase the capacity of CARIFORUM countries to establish an effective and transparent regulatory framework for businesses; promote CARIFORUM regional integration; and strengthen commercial and economic relations between CARIFORUM and European Union Member states.

Explaining that Barbados was party to a number of trade agreements, of which the EPA was the latest and most comprehensive, the consultant, however, warned those present that the EPA was "not a panacea for Barbados’ development ills, or indeed, for the particular challenges facing companies.

"Equally, it is not a pool of money or some financing mechanism to replace your banking or financing arrangements… [Rather], it is a trade and investment agreement between 15 CARIFORUM countries and the 27 EU members," he stressed.

Regarding the benefits of the EPA, Mr. Humphrey pointed out that it would help facilitate economic restructuring and growth, as well as institutional strengthening by helping Barbados and other CARIFORUM countries to move towards more value-added economic activity. According to him, it would also allow for the development of greater capacity among companies, so they would compete internationally in the export of services, creative products and selected manufactured items.

Mr. Humphrey noted that with the exception of rum, exports from the region to Europe had not done well.

Six CARICOM countries, including Barbados, joined other African and Pacific developing countries and nine European nations in signing the first Lom?? Convention in Togo, approximately 30 years ago. At that time, small developing states, such as Barbados, were given preferential treatment to export their goods to European nations over the more developed countries.

However, following the signing of the Cotonou agreement in 2000, ACP and EU states decided it was time to overhaul their trading systems to make them more efficient. Hence, the birth of what is known as the EPA. It was introduced as a way for EU member states to continue to allow ACP countries?? preferential access to their markets, while still remaining compliant?? with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules.

Against this climate, a new era in international trade emerged, with CARIFORUM states formally signing the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union on October 15, 2008, in Barbados. It was a game changer, designed not only to replace the Lom?? (1975) and Cotonou arrangements, but to act as a catalyst for trade between CARICOM states and Europe.

Therefore, Mr. Humphrey said that the agreement not only involved compliance with WTO regulations and the introduction of reciprocity into the CARIFORUM-EU relationship, but moreover, it offered additional European Commission development support for the region; and improved access to wider EU market for regional services.

In addition to these, he mentioned that the agreement provided for duty and quota free access to the EU market for all products from Barbados, with the exception, of course, of things like nuclear material, in which, he noted, CARICOM did not trade. "There were short transitional periods for some commodity items, and those transitional periods have all passed," he told those gathered.

The official further explained that duty free access for goods was dependent on being able to satisfy the Rules of Origin criteria. "The Rules of Origin establish criteria, as you know, through which it can be determined whether products qualify for preferential market access. They detail the extent of the processing that should be done in the exporting country, to ensure that the product qualifies for preferential market access. Now products originating in Barbados must, therefore, be either wholly obtained in Barbados, [for example] something that is grown or reared in Barbados; sufficiently processed, or substantially transformed," he stated.

Along with the Rules of Origin, he said the EPA also gave manufacturers the flexibility to source raw materials from neighbouring or developing countries, namely, Mexico, Colombia, Costa Rica, Cuba, El Salvador, Guatemala, Honduras, Panama, Nicaragua and Venezuela, among others. Such materials could also be sourced from African or European member states, he added.

However, in order for Barbados to ship its products to the EU, this country needs to meet sanitary and phyto sanitary (food, safety ad health) regulations. Mr. Humphrey disclosed that this issue was now being treated "as a priority in Barbados" and was one of the areas in which the EU had promised to provide the region with development support and technical assistance.

Concerning claims by some business persons that they did not know much about the EPA, Mr. Humphrey maintained that information was readily available from many sources, namely, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs’ Implementation Unit, business support organisations, the EU’s Consulate in Barbados, as well the respective websites. He has, therefore encouraged persons to avail themselves of the many booklets produced by the Implementation Unit.

Persons desirous of getting assistance with export proposals should contact the Unit at "The Heritage", 35 Pine Road, Belleville, St. Michael; or to telephone 434-2150, or email epaforeign.gov.bb for more information.

Please click here to view Mr. Errol Humphrey’s presentation

Please click here to view Dr. Chantal Ononaiwu’s presentation

Please click here to view Dr. Beverley Wood’s presentation

Please click here to view Dr. Wendy Hollingsworth’s presentation

Please click here to view Mr. Hadyn Rhynd’s presentation

Please click here to view Dr. Sandra Browne’s presentation


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