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The EU welcomes this opportunity to discuss such developments. Indeed, the Trade Policy Review Mechanism is especially important for countries like Suriname, where foreign trade represents 130 % of the GDP.
As noted by Minister Tsang, Suriname shows signs of recovery from the recent economic crisis, when the worldwide drop in international commodity prices in 2015 and the cessation of alumina mining in the country significantly reduced government revenue during the past few years. Suriname's GDP grew 2% in 2018 and is expected to grow further in 2019 and 2020. Inflation has declined significantly; also unemployment declined and increased gold production helped lift exports.
Of course, many challenges remain for Suriname’s government to keep the country on a path of sustained and inclusive growth. A lot will depend on Suriname’s commitment to responsible monetary and fiscal policies and on the introduction of structural reforms to liberalize markets and promote competition. It is clear that Suriname has potentials and opportunities for increased production and export and a free and sustainable trade is part of the solution.
As noted by the Discussant, the services sector is the main economic activity in Suriname, contributing consistently to around 55% of GDP in the period 2012-2017. Reforms in the regulatory framework and legislation will lead to improve growth for the services sector.
Agriculture is also an important economic sector in Suriname, providing employment and income to around 17% of the economically active population. Minister Tsang referred to the importance of diversification in the Surinamese economy. Agriculture is precisely one of the sectors to invest in to diversify. In this context, it is worth noting, that the 11th EDF National Indicative Programme (NIP) for the period 2014-2020 (€ 13.8 million) has identified sustainable agriculture as the priority sector. The agricultural programme aims to achieve an increased, more competitive and safer production of selected crops, through an enabling environment and enhanced capacities of the private sector and institutions.
The bilateral relationship between Suriname and the EU is important. Over the years, together with its Member States, the EU has become a major political and economic partner of Suriname.
The EU-CARIFORUM Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) remains the cornerstone of our relationship. The EPA is provisionally in force since 2008. Suriname has not yet ratified the EPA and a national congress, held in 2018 in order to review the impact of the EPA, showed that the business community requires more research and analysis. The EU looks forward to that and the ratification of the EPA.
The EPA ensures duty and quota free access to the European markets. Almost 25% of Surinamese export products, including aluminium, gold, oil, rice, fruit and vegetables, shrimp and fish go to the EU market. The EPA is crucial for the export of agricultural products and opening a potential for further product diversification as well as for a deeper regional integration process. It also facilitates access to assistance for private sector development under the 11th EDF for an effective implementation of the EPA and capacity building.
Further, the EU has recently conducted a very successful Political Dialogue with Suriname led by Minister of Foreign Affairs, HE Mrs. Yldiz Pollack-Beighle under article 8 of the ACP-Cotonou Agreement in Paramaribo. The EU is now also engaged in the promotion of European business interests conducive to Foreign Direct Investment in Suriname.
The EU is indeed an important investment partner for Suriname. As FDI flows are important to Suriname because they can attract greater investment opportunities, updating the current investment law can indeed encourage greater transparency and sustainability for investments
The EU in its questions has raised several issues, inter alia regarding competition policy, agriculture, services and customs and we thank Suriname for providing the replies, which we are examining carefully. We appreciate Suriname’s commitment and on-going efforts to facilitate trade and investment and we are hopeful that it will address any concerns we may have in this regard.
On behalf of the European Union, I wish Suriname a very successful review. Thank you.