Minister of Industry and International Business, Donville Inniss. (FP)

Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss, has proffered the view that some of the challenges currently being faced by countries taking advantage of opportunities under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) stem from a lack of political will.

He made this observation while addressing a two-day Closeout Workshop CSME and EPA Standby Facilities for Capacity Building Workshop at the Caribbean Development Bank, Wildey, St. Michael, recently.

Mr. Inniss told his audience that some of the challenges experienced in accessing the European Union market relates to difficulty in meeting regulatory stipulations in the form of non-tariff barriers; limited knowledge of e-market information; limited dynamics regarding economies of scale and institutional capacity to support the diversification and the development of new products; and limited use of key intellectual property tools to support new export platforms.

He contended: “…Some of those challenges related to a lack of political will to get things done in the regional landscape and I cannot bury my head in the sand about that.  There is not enough enthusiasm, strong and decisive leadership and will at the political level throughout the Caribbean region to get these things done.”

The Minister also made a case for a paradigm shift in attitudes, noting that the prevailing “someone else owes me a favour” attitude which seems to be engrained in the psyche of some Caribbean people must be a thing of the past.

“In case you haven’t realised as yet, no one owes us a favour.  We must change our attitude and recognise that we have to get up and get things done for ourselves.  Where opportunities are presented, we must not squander them.  We must also have much stronger and decisive leadership in our private sector and civil society in the region.  What is passing off as strong leadership is really very mediocre and certainly will not take this region forward,” Mr. Inniss argued.

Meanwhile, European Union Ambassador, Daniela Tramacere, noted that the workshop provided an excellent opportunity for stakeholders to assess the state of the CSME/EPA relationship over the last five years.

The Ambassador urged participants to move beyond the rhetoric and address pertinent questions regarding what could be done differently and what still needed to be done to bring the EPA and CSME closer to Caribbean citizens.

Assistant Secretary General, Trade and Economic Integration at the Caribbean Community CARICOM Secretariat, Joseph Cox, assured the gathering that the state of the CSME was strong.

He pointed to significant strides in advancing the CSME’s regional and sectoral policies, such as the launching of the regional online companies registry/database and portal; Community Procurement Notice Board and National Advertising Portals; Labour Market Information System, established in collaboration with the International Labour Organization; and the CARICOM Rapid Alert System for the Exchange of Information on Dangerous (non-food) Consumer Goods.

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