Maximizing Export Potential to the EU through the EPA
31 January 2017
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Breakfast Seminar organised by the Trinidad and Tobago Chamber of Industry and Commerce
Good morning ladies and gentlemen.
It is an honour for me to address you at the occasion of this important event to share information and experiences on the opportunities for the private sector arising from the application of the CARIFORUM–EU EPA. It is also an occasion to foster cooperation as we look forward to strengthening the role of the private sector in the EPA implementation process.
First of all, allow me to say a few words about the EPA objectives
The CARIFORUM–EU EPA is a stable and transparent regulatory framework. It was established with the overarching objective to make a fundamental shift in our relationship, gradually moving from aid to trade and investment as agents of growth, jobs and poverty reduction.
Besides its basis in the essential and fundamental elements of the Cotonou Agreement (human rights, democracy, rule of law and good governance), 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.
The EPA has a strong development pillar aimed at increasing the chances for the Caribbean businesses to participate in global value chains. It supports the conditions for increasing investment and private sector initiatives, enhancing supply capacity and competitiveness in the CARIFORUM States.
Taking into account the respective levels of economic and social development, consistent with WTO obligations, the EPA seeks to enhance trade and economic relations, to support a new trading dynamic by means of the progressive, asymmetrical liberalisation of trade and investment flows to reinforce, broaden and deepen cooperation, with the view to building on and improving the Cotonou level of preferential market access into the EU for the CARIFORUM States.
Secondly, a few words about the challenges of EPA implementation
National and regional bodies have made a lot of implementation efforts, laying the foundation for the private sector to gain from the EPA. However, there is a general perception that "more is still needed" to ensure that the business community reaps the economic benefits of the CARIFORUM–EU EPA implementation.
Overall, we face two key challenges – (1) to raise the awareness and induce ownership of the private sector over the benefits of the Agreement, and (2) to strengthen capacities and address supply constraints, ensuring that the private sector can take full advantage of increased trading opportunities and maximise the benefits of trade reforms underway in the CARIFORUM States.
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 greater transparency in finance to help combat corruption and illicit financial flows, including through the development of fair and effective tax systems.
While EPA allows for the economies of scale that can stimulate investment and growth, it is important to strengthen productive supply capacity to take advantage of more fair and open trade, building up the markets to facilitate it, and putting in place the necessary infrastructure and governance reform measures for investments to be successful.
Thirdly, what is our approach towards the private sector in the context of the EPA implementation process?
No doubt, governments are essential for creating conditions for businesses to prosper. However, in the end, it is the private companies, not the governments that create jobs and growth – in the Caribbean like in the EU Member States.
Our approach is therefore to consider the private sector as both a beneficiary and a partner in the delivery of the EPA undertakings. To this end, we support efforts towards greater investment, in particular to improve the business climate in order to make it favourable for attracting internal and foreign investors for businesses, including SMEs that have a particularly vital role in job creation in CARIFORUM States.
Recently I had an opportunity to meet the Trade Minister, the Honourable Ms. Paula Gopee-Scoon. In this meeting as at the previous occasions, Minister Gopee-Scoon has expressed her full support and restated governmental efforts aimed at implementation and even wider promotion of our EPA, particularly in parts beneficial to local economic operators and industry.
Taking this opportunity I would also like to emphasise the role of supporting Value Chains and the role our EPA
We strongly believe that strengthening the competitiveness and trade capacities of targeted productive industries and enterprises would ensure stronger supply chains that can succeed in today's global market and effectively contribute to sustainable development. It is vital to support the application of modern policies and compliance with global standards and norms, including the upgrading and innovation of quality infrastructure, from primary to support activities.
In particular, quality being central to the value chains, we wish to see it integrated as much as possible in National and Regional policies and strategies.
Finally, I wish to reiterate the fact that the development cooperation is an integral part of EPA implementation.
The CARIFORUM – EU EPA is both "a trade and a development instrument" according to the Cotonou Agreement. So, it contains very clear development cooperation commitments. It is therefore crucial that during implementation we address "both pillars" at the same time, namely compliance with the provisions of the agreement, as well as with support programmes, sector initiatives and reforms to enable the Caribbean States and stakeholders to benefit from the EPA.
Building capacities and addressing supply and trade-related constraints in CARIFORUM States will enable taking full advantage of reforms and increased trade opportunities.
A lot of development assistance opportunities exist. Substantial funds are available from a variety of instruments (EDF regional, national and Intra-ACP programmes and thematic lines, as well as potential contribution of other donors such as the European Investment Bank and EU Member States) to support the EPA priorities.
A good example of this is Fit4Europe, a year-long project, which was funded under the 10th EDF and implemented by the Caribbean Development Bank with assistance from ExporTT. The project's aim was to help local companies to better take advantage of the EPA and increase the level of exports from Trinidad and Tobago into Europe. Twenty six local companies participated and by the end many promising business connections were made, a few of which have already begun to bear fruit.
I strongly encourage you to work hand-in-hand with the competent CARIFORUM National and Regional authorities to prioritise needs and to have a strategic approach at national and regional levels ensuring the design of private sector friendly programmes.
The Delegations, including the EU Delegation to Barbados entrusted with regional responsibility for EPA implementation, as well our colleagues at HQ (Brussels), are available to assist to ensure that your respective private sector reaps the benefits of the EPA implementation.
Thank you for your kind attention.