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Small man needs to know about EPA

Natasha Beckles

Small man needs to know about EPA

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ALMOST?THREE?YEARS after the signing of the economic partnership agreement (EPA) between CARIFORUM and the European Union, there continues to be a lack of awareness in many member states.
This is according to Allyson Francis, trade in services and investment specialist with the EPA Implementation Unit of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Speaking during a regional media workshop on the EPA at the Jolly Beach Resort in Antigua and Barbuda on Monday, she said while no detailed study had been conducted on the region’s progress, it was clear that many people do not understand the agreement.    
She said while Barbados had taken advantage of the opportunities, most member states had not.        
Francis noted that while the EPA unit was there to provide guidance, member states had to provide information and do some of the groundwork.    
According to her, while some countries required more “hand-holding” than was anticipated, the unit was trying its best to assist.She said too that foreign exchange controls, European regulatory requirements and the absence of double taxation agreements challenged many member states.
However, on the positive side, Francis said Europeans were open to foreigners, most EU members spoke English and trade should not be limited to continental Europe since “the French Caribbean is right next door”.
Meanwhile, president of the Caribbean Association of Industry and Commerce (CAIC) Carol Evelyn stressed that “the small man on the street” needed to be made aware of the opportunities the agreement provides.
He also cited the need for partnerships among small and medium-sized enterprises. 
“If we are to move forward in CARICOM to maximize the benefits of the EPA there must be a drive towards joint ventures,” he said, noting that this may be the only way to source “really good” skilled and professional workers.