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Tariff-cuts deadline missed

Natasha Beckles

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ALTHOUGH?MOST CARIFORUM STATES have missed the January 1, 2011 deadline for reduced tariffs on European Union (EU) goods as setout in the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), the EU does not seem to be pressing the issue.
This is according to Joel Richards, head of the Barbados Private Sector Trade Team, who told BARBADOS BUSINESS AUTHORITY the agreement does not contain any specific penalties for countries that are slow to comply.
However, he said, the EU can go the route of consultation, mediation, or finally arbitration – in which case the request would have to go through a trade and development committee yet to be established.
Richards noted that this would be a last resort since it was contrary to both the relationship between the two blocs and the partnership arrangement. In the absence of certain committees, he said, there was “no real framework” governing implementation.
Last Monday Branford Isaacs, trade-in-goods specialist with the EPA Implementation Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat, said only St Kitts-Nevis and Guyana had notified the secretariat about tariff reductions.
Speaking during a regional media workshop on the EPA at the Jolly Beach Resort in Antigua and Barbuda, he said “the rest are understood to be in the process of making efforts to effect their reduction”.
When the EPA was signed in 2008 it was agreed that CARIFORUM would not be obliged to begin reducing its tariffs on items subject to phased reduction until 2011.
This three-year moratorium was applied to products which either have a high degree of revenue sensitivity or are produced by domestic industries which require a degree of protection from the competition posed by imports.
Richards said the Trade Team had “not asked any questions of Government” about Barbados’ compliance, but the latest act governing tariffs made provision for the reductions.
Stressing that he could not speak on behalf of other CARIFORUM members, he pointed to Article 240 of the EPA which states that where any signatory country is “in serious balance of payments and external financial difficulties, or under threat thereof, it may adopt or maintain restrictive measures with regard to trade in goods, services and establishment”.