US$9.25 million to reduce trade barriers between CARIFORUM and EU
The reduction of technical barriers to trade which currently exist between Caribbean countries and the European Union is the focus of a new multi-million dollar programme.
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, Monday July 26, 2012 – Removing barriers to trade between the Caribbean Forum countries (CARIFORUM) and the European Union (EU) is critical for having more foreign exchange flows into this region.
That was the message sent by Ambassador of Barbados to CARICOM, Robert Morris, as he commented on a new multi-million dollar programme aimed at reducing the technical barriers to trade which currently exist between CARIFORUM and the EU.
The US$9.25 million EU-funded programme is being coordinated by the CARICOM Regional Organisation for Standards and Quality (CROSQ).
"Caribbean policymakers are all aware that the major factor in the pursuit of sustainable development for our countries is our capacity to engage in trade, contributing to earning foreign exchange and building stable foreign reserves in our individual countries," said Morris.
The CARICOM ambassador also observed: "The project represents the benefits which can be derived from the EPA and underscores the importance of the need for access to funding for technical assistance in our region, as we struggle to transition our small, vulnerable, open and disadvantaged economies."
This step is being taken to encourage participating countries to take advantage of the opportunities available under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the EU and CARIFORUM, which, the head of the delegation of the EU to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean, Ambassador Valeriano Diaz, continues to lament is not being used to its full potential.
"Despite the considerable support being provided by the EU towards EPA implementation in the Caribbean, there seems to be some unease with the pace of progress and the realisation of potential benefits in this regard. This has led some people to question whether the region should have signed off on the EPA," said Diaz.
The EU delegation head denied that being signatory to the EPA would mean the Caribbean would be swamped by European firms and goods.
"The EPA encourages the Caribbean to implement regional commitments in trade in goods and as such it supports OECS integration, the CARICOM Single Market and Economy, as well as the CARICOM-Dominican Republic Free Trade Area," he stressed.
The European ambassador continued to reiterate the EU message that a cut in regional tariffs would not result in a decrease in revenues.
"The reality is that the time period for reducing tariffs extend over 25 years! This initial cut is therefore very miniscule and will have very little impact, if any, on government's revenues as the products committed for early tariff removal were those with already low tariffs," Diaz emphasised.
He also stressed the point that the EU was committed to working with CARIFORUM nations to make their tax systems less dependent on customs duties and improving the efficiency of revenue collection.
Diaz cautioned: "The credibility and predictability of our joint commitments in the EPA is at stake. The WTO is watching; the other developed countries that have repeatedly challenged our trading relationships are watching; and developing countries who wish to get the kind of access that is available in the EPA for themselves are watching as well. We have a lot at stake."