Senior??Information Officers drawn from Government Information Services are pictured at a Regional Workshop on the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) European Union Partnership Agreement, at the Mariott St.Kitts Hotel, Frigate Bay.

Government Information Services (GIS) across the region are now in a better position to educate the public on the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

This follows the conclusion of a two-day workshop for senior officials, which was held at The Marriott St. Kitts Hotel in Frigate Bay, from March 17 to March 18. It was funded under the 9th European Development Fund, Caribbean Integration Support Programme.

Head of the CARICOM Unit’s Implementation Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat, Branford Isaacs, acknowledged that Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) states had signed-on to the agreement as a means of promoting trade in goods and services to European nations and reciprocal trade.

Mr. Isaacs said that the workshop was an important platform for creating a greater awareness among GIS stakeholders on EPA Implementation as the process continues to gain momentum. He noted that participants would now have a deeper appreciation of the implementation obligations of CARICOM member states as far as being equipped with the knowledge of how to trade successfully in the global arena.

The CARICOM official further deemed the workshop a catalyst for "deepening and expanding engagement between the EPA Implementation Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat, the media and Government Information Services." And, he stressed there was a need to ensure that these linkages were sustained.

Agenda items included the state of play of CARIFORUM-European Union EPA Implementation; trade in goods and services; legislative and regulatory arrangements; leveraging Commercial Interests in the Markets of the European Union and the opportunities for private sector involvement.

The trade arrangement was signed by 14 CARIFORUM states in October 2008 and came into force two months later. It was created as a Free Trade Area (FTA) between the European Commission of the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States (ACP) countries. It thus brought to an end the previous non-reciprocal and discriminating preferential trade agreements which were in place, but incompatible with rules of trade as specified by the World Trade Organisation.

The measures involved a phased out removal of all trade preferences which were created between the European Union and the ACP countries since 1975, as well as the liberal removal of trade barriers between the partners.

Participants at the EPA workshop were drawn from 13 CARICOM member states: Antigua and Barbuda, The Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Grenada, Guyana, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, Trinidad and Tobago, St. Vincent, St.Lucia and Suriname. It is expected that the officials will be the focal points for implementing national awareness campaigns throughout the region that will inform and educate stakeholders about the benefits of the trade arrangement.

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