Remarks of Ambassador Aad Biesebroek on the Occasion of the Launch of Caribbean Export’s SME Diagnostic Assessment Tool
February 6TH, 2018
Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago
Honourable Mrs Paula Gopee-Scoon, Minister of Trade and Industry, Trinidad and Tobago
Mrs. Pamela Coke-Hamilton – Executive Director, Caribbean Export Development Agency
Mr. Ashmeer Mohammed – Chairman, exporTT Ltd.
Mr. Dietrich Guichard, CEO exporTT Ltd
Ladies and gentlemen
It is a pleasure for me to be here at this important event to share with you the opportunities for the private sector within the CARIFORUM–European Union Economic Partnership Agreement (or EPA for short). I am also happy to report that this is the 3rd or 4th EU-CARIFORUM EPA-related occasion that I have been honoured to speak at within the last 12 months in Trinidad and Tobago. I think that is a clear indication that there is an ever growing momentum for both the Agreement and the private sector's role in it and most notably for its core target - the Small and Medium Sized Enterprises.
The Caribbean EPA remains the flagship EPA for the EU, as it is still the most comprehensive Trade and Development Agreement between Europe and its African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) partners. The EPA is not only about promoting trade between the Caribbean and Europe; another objective is to promote economic growth within the region. It aims to increase the chances for Caribbean businesses to participate in global value chains and it supports the conditions for increasing investment and private sector initiatives.
This should contribute to increasing supply capacity and competitiveness in CARIFORUM States. This is important as the EU strongly believes that stronger supply chains and a more active private sector can effectively contribute to sustainable and inclusive economic development. It is vital, therefore, 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.
While Governments are essential for creating conditions for businesses to prosper, we all agree that it is ultimately the private companies, the core of which are the SMEs, that create jobs and growth. This is true in the Caribbean just like it is in the EU.
Over the past years national and regional bodies have made good progress in their implementation efforts, laying the foundation for the private sector to gain from the EPA. However, there is a general perception that "still more is needed" to ensure that the business community reaps the economic benefits of the CARIFORUM–EU EPA implementation.
Our approach therefore is 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 local and foreign investors, including SMEs that have a particularly vital role in job creation in CARIFORUM States.
In an effort to deliver effectively on these commitments, we need to take into account and address the real needs of the private sector. We need to focus on building capacity at the level of the individual enterprise through value chain actors, strengthening business support organizations to assist firms to meet trade-related requirements (quality, customs etc.) and reinforcing public-private and private-private dialogue to promote a more effective business enabling environment for Caribbean companies.
Today is an occasion to have that dialogue and foster that cooperation. We are pleased to work with and support valued partners such as the Caribbean Export Development Agency which focuses on Private Sector Development and ExporTT.
The EU is committed to organizing similar events and B2B sessions in the future that allow for the increase of ''exportability'' of Caribbean companies but also for intra and extra-regional business matchmaking, regularly and throughout the region. To this very end, we will work hand-in-hand with the relevant CARIFORUM National and Regional Authorities, regional and European Businesses and Business Support Organizations, CEDA, national chambers, associations and agencies.
The EU Delegation to Barbados entrusted with regional responsibility for EPA implementation, our colleagues in Brussels and I and my colleagues in the Delegation in Trinidad and Tobago are available to assist to ensure that the private sector reaps the benefits of the EPA implementation.
Thank you for your kind attention.