Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean, is reiterating Government???s commitment to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the need for greater engagement from the private sector.

She made this observation today while addressing the two-day EPA seminar and workshop session entitled: Converting EU Market Access into Tangible Benefits: How Can Your Business Benefit from the CARIFORUM – EU EPA. It was held at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre.

Senator McClean pointed out that the EPA was not an ???esoteric and opaque convention stitched together in what you describe as the secrecy of a backroom somewhere that was intended to benefit the governments involved???.

???It is a trade and development agreement aimed at securing favourable market access for you [our business community], improving the competitiveness of our enterprises and enhancing your capacity to take advantage of the opportunities associated with the Agreement.

???And, I therefore would want to stress that the successful implementation of the EPA does not rest with Government alone; it requires strategic and mutually reinforcing cooperation between the private and public sectors,??? she emphasised.

The Foreign Affairs Minister said regional governments had been criticised for being late, slow, tardy, and described as talkers who were quick to commission studies, keen to sign agreements but realised limited success with respect to implementation.

While this may be true to some extent, Minister McClean said, this situation did not have to remain that way and added that the signing of the EPA on October 15, 2008, was designed to change the trade and development cooperation between the European Union and the region.

The Foreign Minister said Barbados was determined that the Agreement would not be signed and then immediately forgotten and pointed out that an engaged business community would be an ???indispensable element for the successful implementation of the EPA???.

???One of the initiatives that we have taken for the successful implementation of the EPA is the establishment of a dedicated EPA Implementation Unit in the Foreign Trade Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade. The Unit has been mandated to work with both the public and private sectors to ensure that they are better informed about EPA-related opportunities and that the former, in particular, become better equipped to exploit the improved market access opportunities provided by the Agreement,??? Senator McClean underlined.

She described the seminar as an important aspect of the Ministry???s outreach to the business community, and part of a comprehensive project that embraced a series of preparatory consultations with business persons, business support organisations and officials from relevant regulatory and business-facilitating institutions.

Senator McClean said from the EPA seminar, tangible EPA-related opportunities beneficial to Barbadians would be identified and the practical steps required to access the benefits would also be outlined.

She also said a post-seminar action would be formulated to guide individual business people, business support organisations and regulatory institutions to ensure that they are better informed to obtain maximum benefit from the agreement.

The seminar ends on Thursday, November 7.

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