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Private companies urged to benefit from CARIFORUM-EU EPA

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Thursday, 09 February 2017

Private companies urged to benefit from CARIFORUM-EU EPA

Aad Biesebroek, head of the European Union Delegation to Trinidad and Tobago, last week encouraged local private companies to take advantage of the trade benefits offered to them through the Caribbean Forum-European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (CARIFORUM-EU EPA). Biesebroek, who was speaking at the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce’s breakfast seminar, defined the CARIFORUM-EU EPA as “a stable and transparent regulatory framework.” “Besides its basis in the essential and fundamental elements of the Cotonou Agreement (human rights, democracy, rule of law and good governance),” he said, “the EPA promotes economic growth in a manner that is consistent with sustainable development and the gradual integration of the Caribbean States into the world economy.” But while the foundation has been laid by “national and regional bodies” for private companies to profit from the agreement, he continued, these companies ultimately have to utilise the stipulations in the agreement to enjoy its economic benefits. In fact, Biesebroek admitted that the agreement does face some challenges, one of which is the lack of awareness of the benefits of the EPA in the private sector. Local businesses, therefore, must become knowledgeable about the agreement’s stipulations and how these stipulations can work to their advantage. Another challenge Biesebroek highlighted was the issue of supply constraints on businesses – limitations on the production of new stock. He explained, “Making access to a stable, regulatory environment and labour markets respecting international standards are important growth factors. So too are promoting corporate social responsibility and building a greater transparency in finance to help combat corruption and illicit financial flows, including through the development of fair and effective tax systems.” He also emphasised the importance of and called for the support of value chains of “targeted productive industries and enterprises” to increase their competitiveness and trade capacities. On the topic of development cooperation, Biesebroek said it was essential to the implementation of the EPA. Using the Cotonou Agreement’s definition of the EPA as “a trade and a development instrument,” he said that the EPA has very clear “development cooperation commitments.” For this reason, “both pillars” – trade and development – must be addressed simultaneously so that Caribbean Sates and stakeholders will benefit from the EPA. Services Specialist at the Caribbean Export Development Agency, Sonja Francis was also present at the seminar and reiterated Biesebroek’s assertion that companies need to use the EPA to their advantage. She defined the EPA as “a tool for development” which can work only if private companies utilise it. Francis also spoke on the limitations facing export growth in CARIFORUM, specifying “ineffective or nonexistent platforms for publicprivate dialogue” and “business support organisations” lacking “the capacity to mount effective advocacy campaigns.” She also identified limited access to finances and reiterated Biesebroek’s point that competitiveness is crucial for businesses to prosper in the EPA. Progress in the EPA It is important to note that Trinidad and Tobago is CARIFORUM’s largest regional exporting country, with 43 percent of its total regional export going to the EU.

Source: www.newsday.co.tt