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EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) ratification slow

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The United Kingdom’s High Commissioner to TT, Arthur Snell, says lack of political enthusiasm is partly why many Caribbean countries have not yet ratified the EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

“One of the things we often hear said about the EPA is that it was a way for the EU to bulldoze its way into this region’s markets...but you (CARIFORUM) have free access now. We don’t. I don’t have a problem with that because that’s something we need to build gradually in these smaller economies. If there were to be a surge of imports from the EU into the Caribbean, the EPA actually has provisions for the Caribbean to be able to protect itself, such as bringing in quotas, increasing tariffs and so on.”

Snell was speaking yesterday on the topic “Opportunities for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs) through the EPA”, during the opening session of a two-day SME seminar hosted by the Chamber of Industry and Commerce at its Westmoorings office.

The High Commissioner’s advice?

Follow the example set by CARIFORUM member, the Dominican Republic, and go over the EPA “to see how it can benefit you rather than delaying ratification of the agreement.”

“The Dominican Republic has done a lot of high volume, low cost agricultural exports to the EU, but the point I would make is, they seem to have taken a policy approach from the top where they said, let’s look at this EPA, let’s look at what it gives us, and then let’s support and encourage growth in those sectors. That seems to have worked well for them.”

Snell said he wasn’t aware that other Caribbean countries have chosen to do that, and speculated they may have chosen to focus instead on “opportunities in Latin America.”

However, the High Commissioner cautioned that export markets are not “either/or. You’re not going to lose an opportunity in Latin America because you gained an opportunity in the EU... I think there’s definitely scope for more exports from the Caribbean.”

Snell estimated that 50 percent of Caricom members had yet to ratify the EPA, some because of the “complex legislation required.”

“But that’s why the EU has supported implementation units, particularly in some of the smaller islands (and) here in TT. I think TT clearly is a country that can, in some respects, lead the way on (ratification) if it chooses to. My EU colleagues have a very good, productive dialogue with the (Trade) Ministry and I’m sure that progress will be made,” Snell told reporters yesterday.