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UK Aid for Trade has helped Pave the Way for EPA Implementation

ivan orgando-lora

CARICOM Secretariat, Georgetown, Guyana-     Great strides have been made in strengthening national capacity in the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM), regarding the implementation of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). 

The United Kingdom’s Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund) has distinguished itself, in this regard, providing much-needed Aid for Trade resources in order to buttress institutional structures with responsibility for coordinating EPA implementation in some of the smallest regional states, all of which face stark capacity constraints.

The out-going Director-General of the CARIFORUM Directorate in the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Mr Ivan Ogando Lora, expressed this view against the backdrop of CARTFund EPA public sector capacity building support projects that are winding down in five regional states.

Grant Agreements governing the projects in each of the five states had come on stream at varying points, since 2009. Antigua and Barbuda was the first state in which the capacity building project was rolled out, followed by Grenada.

Project closures have since been set in train for these two states, as part of the first wave of closures, of which St Vincent and the Grenadines is also a part. The second wave is set to take place in relation to Belize and St Kitts and Nevis, in the coming months.

“The rollout of the CARTFund in the Region, in support of public sector organizations spearheading EPA implementation, has reached a turning point,” Mr Ogando noted. 

He added, “the CARTFund has been vitally important to EPA implementation, not least because it has provided a fillip to institutional structures that are at the vanguard of the coordination of EPA implementation in a sub-set of regional states.”

The Director-General said of authorities in those states, “with the support of the CARTFund now at its end they have a sound basis upon which to build further EPA implementation actions, which is especially important considering that institutional structures that received CARTFund support will play a crucial role in EPA implementation in the short-, medium- and long-term.”

These five states are amongst eight regional states that elected to pursue National EPA Implementation Plans, in close collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat-based EPA Implementation Unit.

The provision of this type of support is of the highest priority for the Unit, given that it is mandated to assist CARIFORUM States in the implementation of the provisions of the EPA.

Mr Ogando called attention to the critical role played by partner institutions in bringing the CARTFund on stream, including the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB). The Bank is the fund administrator.

He said regional states are especially grateful to the United Kingdom Government, “which in providing the funds bridged the difference between words and deeds, at an especially critical juncture in EPA implementation.”

The United Kingdom is one of only two EU States that have provided Aid for Trade resources in support of EPA implementation, to date, notwithstanding that during EPA negotiations the EU side had indicated that such resources would be forthcoming as a significant means of support to CARIFORUM States in the implementation of the EPA. “With the exception of two states, EU Member States have not lived up to their promise of extending bilateral Aid for Trade support to regional states grappling with the implementation of an unprecedented trade accord in the face of challenging capacity constraints, which have been made more severe by the downturn in the global economy,” Mr Ogando underscored.

The CARTFund portfolio comprises regional and national projects, with public and private sector-oriented initiatives. The CARTFund was established in March 2009, with £5 million in funding from the UK Department for International Development (DFID). This amount doubled to £10 million, in early 2010. The stated aim of the programme is to generate momentum with respect to the implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA and the CARICOM Single Market and Economy (CSME).

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