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EPA still a mystery

Marlon Madden

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Despite hundreds of millions pumped into the region to implement the framework for companies to take advantage of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), many interested parties remain unaware of how to use it – a situation that Valeriano Diaz, head of the European Union delegation in Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, described as perplexing.
He therefore suggested that businesspeople lobby their respective governments in the region to make the changes to existing legislation and also contact the agencies responsible for providing them with well needed assistance.
“When I speak of legislative and other frameworks, I refer to the amendment of legislation to reflect what is in the EPA on specific areas such as the investment and sanitary measures . . . ,” said Diaz.
He noted that before the formal process of the three-and-a-half-year-old agreement was completed, the EU had allocated €$165 million (BDS$430 million) to CARICOM to assist in the “regional integration process and EPA implementation”.
Diaz also said that the EU and CARICOM recently signed a €$47 million (BDS$122 million) agreement on the assistance facilitation process.
More than half of it, he said, would go towards removing trade barriers, fiscal reform, and help the 15-member federation upgrade sanitation standards to meet EU import requirements.
“It is perplexing, to say the least, when I hear some businesspeople lamenting that they do not know very much about the EPA. We are in an information age – this kind of deficit attitude is difficult to understand,” he said, while lauding Caribbean Export for its efforts in creating an avenue for regional businesses to gain exposure in the European market.
His comments came during the launch of Caribbean Export’s Regional Private Sector Development initiatives – London 2012, Break Point and the CARIFORUM-EU Business Forum. The event was staged at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre last Thursday.