A government minister is reiterating the need for Barbadians to aggressively pursue opportunities under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and has warned that time is fast running out.

Speaking at the Caribbean Export Development Agency (Caribbean Export) 10th European Development Fund???s Direct Assistance Grant Scheme (DAGS) press conference held at Baobab Tower, Warrens, St. Michael this morning, Minister of Industry, International Business, Commerce and Small Business Development, Donville Inniss said very often we in Barbados sit back and complain that the application process is too complex, and say it is too much paper work to complete and find all kinds of excuses.

However, he told his audience that ???our brothers and sisters in the rest of region do find it rather easy to make the applications and we cannot miss any opportunity that presents itself to us.???

Noting that earlier in the week, Government started a debate in Parliament on the EPA, which was signed in October 2008, the Minister said they would resume the discussion as the debate must not just take place within Parliament.

???We as a society have an opportunity now to refocus our energy and our mind towards the EPA???what it really ought to have meant for us in the region…why is it that we have not taken hold of the opportunities presented and what more can we do in the time allocated to do better.

One of the things we can do is to stop complaining and start grabbing hold of the opportunities and preparing ourselves to enter and penetrate the European market because if we don???t we are going to find ourselves sitting here as sitting ducks and find that they are able to cut into our markets, walk through the open doors and take over,??? he charged.

He added that he didn???t think it was any mal-intent on the part of the EU as it had provided the region with an opportunity to get into their markets in a reasonable time frame while noting that ???we must redouble our efforts in the region, especially in the private sector???.

???Too often Government goes out there and negotiates trade agreements??? we invite the private sector to be part of the team negotiating these agreements and then when we sign on the dotted line and when we look we find the private sector is not there to take up the opportunities and we need to make this something of the past.???

According to Executive Director of the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Pamela Coke-Hamilton, 136 regional firms were awarded grants. Of this number, 16 Barbadian firms were awarded grants to the tune of BDS$1 million;13 of these firms received regular procedures grants, while three were awarded accelerated grants.


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