Establishment of the EPA Implementation Unit
In September 2008, the Government of Barbados decided to establish a Unit to coordinate the implementation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement in Barbados. This decision was announced formally by the then Minister of Foreign Affairs, Foreign Trade and International Business, the Hon. Christopher Sinckler during his feature address on the occasion of the EPA Signing Ceremony in Barbados on 15th October 2008.
On 1st July 2009, the EPA Implementation Unit became operational and the Foreign Trade Division of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade retained the services of an EPA implementation Consultant to advise the Ministry on EPA matters and to assist with the establishment of the Unit.
EPA Unit’s Mandate
The Unit’s mandate includes:
- Ongoing liaison and interaction with public and private sector institutions to identify EPA-related needs and possible sources of development assistance to address those needs.
- Developing and executing a sensitization and information outreach programme to inform stakeholders about EPA-related benefits and opportunities.
- Working with Government Ministries and other agencies in developing or strengthening Barbados’ regulatory and enabling environment in order to facilitate the exploitation of EPA-related opportunities by the private sector.
- Working with private sector institutions in organizing workshops and other interactive sessions to inform economic operators about market access opportunities in the EU and how to take advantage of those opportunities.
- Liaising and interacting with EU-associated institutions, which are responsible for providing funding and various forms of technical assistance to support development and growth in ACP countries.
- Interfacing with regional and locally-based institutions involved in managing and/or disbursing resources, which could be used for EPA-related projects.
- Developing an appropriate set of indicators and benchmarks to facilitate the monitoring of EPA Implementation in Barbados.
Some of the Major Activities Undertaken by the Unit
Some of the major activities undertaken by the EPA Implementation Unit, include:
- Preparation of “Barbados’ Roadmap for Implementation of the EPA”. The Roadmap reflects the two complementary aspects of the EPA - obligations resulting from commitments by Government and opportunities which should be exploited by Barbadian institutions and economic operators.
- Development and ongoing work on an EPA implementation and monitoring matrix.
- Organization of a project to evaluate market access opportunities in certain EU countries for services from Barbados; Organization of a seven-day workshop for public and private sector officials on “Project Proposal Development and Preparation”; and Conceptualization and execution a continuing information dissemination programme to inform stakeholders about the provisions of the Agreement and how to take advantage of available opportunities.
- Preparation and publication of the following six EPA information booklets, in both regular printed and e-book formats.
- Tourism & Travel-related Services in the CARIFORUM-EC Economic Partnership Agreement
- The CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement: A Tool for Stimulating Innovation in Barbados; Opportunities in the CARIFORUM-EC EPA for Barbadian Entertainers and other Cultural Services Suppliers;
- Opportunities for Business Services in the CARIFORUM-EC EPA;
- Opportunities for Investment under the CARIFORUM-EU EPA; and
- Major Provisions on Trade in Goods under the EPA.
- Organization of and/or making presentations to a number of EPA-related symposia and workshops in cooperation with public sector agencies and private sector organizations.
- Organization of EPA-related training sessions for Customs and Immigration Officers.
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.