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Do you know what the EPA is?

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Fri, Nov 18. 2011

Editor: Permit me to use this letter to shed some light on this most important issue of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union (EU). Too often in the heat of an issue, we are concerned about how it would affect us and then we let it die.{{more}} The Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines has signed on to this agreement with much opposition from civil society, and more specifically the farmers. What has Government done since? One major step is the Establishment of the EPA Implementation Unit within the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and Consumer Affairs to oversee the implementation of this agreement. As the head of this Unit, I thought it apt to re-start the dialogue on the Agreement.

Do you know what the EPA is?

The Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) was signed by the 27 European Union member states and 14 CARIFORUM states (all except Haiti) in October 2008 and it came into effect through provisional application in December 2008. It replaces the trade provisions of the Cotonou Agreement, signed in 2000, in which the European Community unilaterally granted African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries non-reciprocal market access to Europe on more favourable terms than those enjoyed by goods from other countries.

There was special access for some traditional exports like sugar, rum, bananas and rice into the European market, which was very important to ACP countries. The Cotonou’s non-reciprocal trade preferences required a waiver in the World Trade Organization (WTO) because it was contrary to the basic rule enshrined in Article 1 of the GATT that all members must be treated no less than any other member (most favoured nation (MFN) principle) unless they belong to a regional trade agreement or economic integration agreement which meets the substantive criteria of Article XXIV of the GATT or Article V of the General Agreement on Trade in Services (GATS), respectively. In exchange for the waiver, the EU and ACP states had agreed to replace the Cotonou preferential trade arrangement with a reciprocal WTO-compatible agreement by the end of 2007. The CARIFORUM-EC EPA is the first EPA to be completed between Europe and one of the six sub-regions of the ACP.

The EPA contains rules to ensure that trade and investment between CARIFORUM and the European Union is conducted on a transparent and predictable basis, while accommodating the marked differences in size and level of development between the two regions.

Objectives

The EPA as a trade agreement with development components is designed to open up and enhance trade between Europe and CARIFORUM by removing the barriers to trade between them and by improving CARIFORUM’s capacity to trade competitively. Through enhanced open trade, it is expected that the EPA will:

  • Expand and improve CARIFORUM’s industries and economic growth by enabling CARIFORUM States to develop exports in services and a wider range of goods in which they have a comparative advantage;
  • Increase employment and business opportunities;
  • Improve CARIFORUM’s access to European technology and technical ‘know how’;
  • Increase competition within CARIFORUM and thereby improve efficiency in production processes.

CARIFORUM members of the EPA: Antigua and Barbuda, Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Grenada, Guyana, Haiti, Jamaica, St. Kitts and Nevis, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Suriname, Trinidad and Tobago

European Union members of the EPA: Austria, Belgium, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Czech Republic, Denmark, Estonia, Finland, France, Germany, Greece, Hungary, Ireland, Italy, Latvia, Lithuania, Luxembourg, Malta, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Slovakia, Slovenia, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom

Okolo John-Patrick
Project Manger
SVG EPA Implementation Unit
Email: [email protected] or follow us on twitter @svgepaunit or like our facebook page SVG EPA Implementation Unit.

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