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National EPA Implementation Plans a Key Milestone

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CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana – July 5, 2013 -     Gains have been made regarding Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM) implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU), since the signing of the landmark trade and development accord by fourteen CARIFORUM States in October 2008 and by the fifteenth state, Haiti, in December 2009.

With Validation Meetings now having been held in most of the eight CARIFORUM States that sought to develop National EPA Implementation Plans, regional states are at a critical turning point toward adding to those gains.

St Vincent and the Grenadines is the latest CARIFORUM State to mount a Validation Meeting. Authorities did so in Kingstown, on July 3. The purpose of the engagement was to bring together representatives from Government, the private sector and civil society, to consider the draft National EPA Implementation Plan. The well-attended Meeting enabled these stakeholders to be briefed on the document, while availing them the opportunity to provide input as part of efforts to ready it for finalization.

As has been the practice in the other states in which the validation exercise has been mounted, staff of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat-based EPA Implementation Unit, and the consultant retained to spearhead development of the Implementation Plan, will be at the Meeting.

The Unit has been integrally involved in lending technical support to the initiative in St Vincent and the Grenadines and the seven other CARIFORUM States involved, as have national counterparts in these states.

The Validation Meeting exercise was a crucial step in the finalization of that Plan, which is expected to position St Vincent and the Grenadines to better coordinate its approach to implementing the provisions of the EPA, in terms of obligations and benefits. This is also the case for the other CARIFORUM States, for which Validation Meetings would have been convened.

The deliberations during Validation Meetings, led by the consultant, are to centre on the specific actions to be taken to achieve compliance, in addition to resources required for implementation and strategies for meeting resource gaps. In the lead up to these meetings at which the consultant would present the draft EPA Implementation Plan, the consultant would have been part of a consultative process with relevant stakeholders that lends itself to gleaning this kind of information.

At the outset of the consultancies for each of the regional states developing National EPA Implementation Plans there has been a launching activity, which, as an introductory exercise, has attracted a wide cross-section of stakeholders. In most cases, the launch has been headlined by the Minister with responsibility for the EPA. In a few cases, the Minister has also participated in respective Validation Meetings.

Grenada was the first CARIFORUM State to benefit from the consultancy to develop National EPA Implementation Plans, an initiative which the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) has a hand in backing and one which has been funded under the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund).

Antigua and Barbuda was the next country in which the consultancy was rolled out, followed by Belize, St Kitts and Nevis, The Bahamas, Dominica, St Vincent and the Grenadines and Saint Lucia.

This sequence reflects the staging of launching exercises, each of which is meant to publicly call attention to the development of respective National EPA Implementation Plans. This is also the case for validation exercises, with the exception of two states. In those two cases, Validation Meetings have yet to be confirmed.  

Authorities in Saint Lucia will mount the validation exercise for that country on July 5 in Castries. The Regional EPA Implementation Unit will be represented by its Trade in Services and Investment Specialist, Ms S. H. Allyson Francis.

Following the Validation Meeting in Saint Lucia and the finalization of the Plan thereafter, EPA focal points — with whom responsibility lies for ensuring the Plan is realized — take possession of the document.

The expectation is that individual Plans would be submitted to the Government for approval, and then given effect.

The Regional EPA Implementation Unit has registered its commitment to continue to extend technical guidance and assistance to EPA focal points, as they proceed to give effect to the National EPA Implementation Plans.

The development of National EPA Implementation Plans is expected to bode well for regional states preparing to access the recently launched EPA Standby Facility for Capacity Building, a €3.5m fund administered by the CDB, with support from National Authoring Officers (NAOs) in respective states. The Standby Facility is in place for three years (December 2012 to December 2015), and is intended to assist CARIFORUM States by underpinning national institutional capacities.  

The Draft EPA Regional Implementation Road Map document had been drawn up for CARIFORUM States, following the conclusion of negotiations, in order to identify the broad actions (chronologically) to be taken regarding EPA implementation at the national and regional levels. Drawing on this high level document, a number of National EPA Implementation Units and Like Entities sought to develop National EPA Implementation Plans. Consultants were retained to aid in this effort, leveraging CARTFund resources.

The fifteen signatory CARIFORUM States to the EPA are the independent CARICOM Member States and the Dominican Republic.