Barbados Signs a New Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with Europe
Barbados has joined 12 other Caribbean countries in signing a much-discussed Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the 27-member European Union (EU).
The far-reaching pact, which had been under discussion for four years, was initialed in Barbados on October 15th, 2008.
Among other things, it removes, with immediate effect, all quotas and tariffs from Caribbean exports to the EU, with the exception of sugar and rice, both of which will be liberalized over time. The EU has also agreed to open up new markets for Caribbean companies and professionals offering services to Europe, and to permit young services professionals to gain work experience in the European market.
For their part, Barbados and the other signing Caribbean countries have agreed to gradually open their markets to European exports over the next 25 years, a move that is expected to lower domestic prices on European products.
Vice President of the European Commission, Siim Kallas, told the Barbados signing ceremony that the EPA will also provide 165 million Euros (about US$222 million) in development aid to the participating countries.
“The money is there. It’s ready,” he said at the signing.
Caribbean Community Secretary General, Edwin Carrington saw the EPA as ground-breaking for Barbados and its regional neighbours.
Carrington declared: “It’s a day to celebrate
it’s a day of great historical significance, where 27 European countries and 13 CARIFORUM countries have come together for the betterment of trade in the region.”
Barbados Foreign Minister, Chris Sinckler, who signed the EPA for the island, urged all Caribbean people to get behind their governments to take advantage of the new opportunities and make the EPA a success.
He said Barbados is setting up a special EPA unit to devise strategies and programmes to help the local private sector to exploit the agreement with Europe.
The other countries signing the EPA were Belize, the Bahamas, St. Lucia, Dominica, Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Antigua and Barbuda, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, St. Kitts and Nevis, Grenada, Trinidad and Tobago, and Suriname. Guyana, which initially had some reservations about elements of the agreement, is expected to sign by the end of October.
Guyana was one of two Caribbean countries missing from the signing ceremony. The other, Haiti, asked to be excused, because its new government had not yet had enough time to complete consultations with the public and private sectors and was still busy with a multi-million dollar clean-up campaign following the devastation caused by two recent hurricanes.
October 19th, 2008