WHAT IS THE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (EPA)
The CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was signed on 15th October 2008, liberalizes trade and investment between fifteen (15) CARIFORUM States and the twenty-seven (27) European Union (EU) countries on a reciprocal, but asymmetric basis. The EPA enables CARIFORUM States and the EU to satisfy their obligations under the WTO, by liberalizing “substantially all trade” between them under a comprehensive Trade Agreement.
The EPA, not only covers trade in goods, Agriculture and fisheries, but it also addresses trade in services, investment facilitation, and trade related issues between the Parties. In addition, the EU agreed to provide special development support aimed at strengthening CARIFORUM institutions, improving competitiveness, and building the capacity of regional economic operators to take advantage of market access opportunities provided under the Agreement.
SOME KEY DATES IN CARIBBEAN-EU RELATIONSHIP
• 28th February 1975, the first ACP-EEC Convention signed in Lome, Togo and the Caribbean’s “Special Relationship” with the EU began. Barbados was one of six CARICOM States to join other developing countries from Africa and the Pacific to form the ACP Group.
• November 1992, the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) of the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group of States was formally established; following the accession of the Dominican Republic to the Lomé IV ACP-EC Convention.
• 23rd June 2000, ACP-EU Partnership Agreement signed in Cotonou, Benin.
• 14th November 2001, ACP & EU secured a WTO waiver to allow the Cotonou Agreement’s non-reciprocal market access arrangements to remain in force until 31st December 2007.
• 27th September 2002, Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) negotiations began at all-ACP level in Brussels, Belgium.
• 16th April 2004, CARIFORUM-EU regional EPA negotiations launched in Kingston, Jamaica.
• 16th December 2007, EPA negotiations completed and text initialled by the two Chief Negotiators in Bridgetown, Barbados.
• 1st January 2008, guaranteed duty free access into EU market for CARIFORUM goods instituted.
• 15th October 2008, EPA signed in Bridgetown, Barbados.
• 29th December 2008, provisional application of EPA commenced.
• On 1st January 2011, after a three-year moratorium, phased reduction of tariffs by CARIFORUM countries began. This gradual tariff reduction process is scheduled to continue over the 25-year period to 2033.