There have been too many instances where good opportunities have emanated from new agreements but the region has failed to take advantage.

Citing the Cariforum/Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) as a classic example of the region being tardy in pursuing markets within the European Union (EU), Minister of International Business, Donville Inniss, said that when the assistance contained within the EPA agreement, especially Articles eight, 51 and 121, was juxtaposed with action from the region since 2008, there was reason for concern over our failure to do better trade with the EU.

Mr. Inniss was speaking this morning at a two-day Regional Consultation on Market Intelligence and Export Strategy Development at the Radisson Aquatica Hotel, Aquatic Gap, St. Michael.

Stating that trade between CARICOM and the EU was down a bit but Cariforum trade with the EU was up due primarily to the efforts of the Dominican Republic, the Minister said: ???We can do better as a region with this trade agreement. Our work as policymakers does not end at the signing of agreements and creating legislation; we have to continue to build out and sustain the various institutions that create an enabling environment and unfettered trade within our region and extra-regionally.???

He further added: ???Our sanitary and phyto-sanitary programmes, standards bodies, competent authorities for export verification, business development services and financial support programmes must be functioning effectively if we are to truly achieve our export potential as a region.???

The Minister observed that while the focus here [at the consultation] may be on export strategy for extra-regional markets, he urged those participating to pay attention to our intra-regional trade.

???I am deeply concerned that we are still paying too much lip service to intra-regional trade issues and are still too focused on our narrow selfish space, resulting in the placement of barriers to trade within the Cariforum space,??? he opined.

Mr. Inniss further stated: ???A quick glance at the costs and difficulties in travelling within this region by air or sea; the conduct of some Customs and Health officials; the abrupt imposition of increased rates of duties and the hostility to our neighbours??? goods and services, do not help us build a strong regional space to co-exist in harmonious trade arrangements.???

Therefore, the Minister advised his fellow policymakers and political leaders to stop laughing at the unfortunate circumstances that might beset other countries in the region, desist from the narrow-mindedness that inform some thoughts and actions and take intra-regional trade seriously.

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