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European Union Ambassador to the Caribbean region, Paola Amadei has sought to dispel misconceptions in relation to the Economic Partnership Agreement concluded to establish a free trade zone between the European Union and the fifteen members of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) and the Dominican Republic in 2008.
Speaking at the signing of a USD240.7m EPA Capacity Building Project agreement in Jamaica, Amadei pointed out that the EPA, signed in 2008, had been described, among other things, as a "Trojan Horse" that would "swamp" the Caribbean market.
Amadei said other misconceptions arising included the belief that the EPA will result in significant loss of revenue in what is deemed an “already difficult context”; and that the facility would be an “instrument of inequitable struggle” between the EU and CARIFORUM.
“To this I reply that the EPA is a call for a new dynamic approach towards globalization and that… can contribute to setting the Caribbean economies on the right track to seize opportunities created by globalization. The EPA, and globalization itself, imposes on Jamaica and… the Caribbean region, structural reforms linked to good governance, regional integration, and a business environment. Reforms that are needed, with or without the EPA,” she stated.
Additionally, she pointed out the EPA is “directly oriented towards increasing investments in the region, to the full benefit of enterprises, employment, and, thus, national wealth.”
She pointed out that the EPA was establish to foster free trade arrangements between the European Union and the African, Caribbean and Pacific Group (ACP) of states, of which the Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) is a subgroup.
“Conducting reforms to improve the business environment, the management of public finances and deepening regional integration are objectives within reach. This is the main contribution of the EPA. The EPA’s rational is to help create a turning point where trade spurts growth and development,” she argued.
“All in all, the EPA is a driver for change and much needed reforms. It aims at, ultimately, ensuring a stable, predictable and transparent business environment, thereby helping CARIFORUM attract foreign investments and integrate at the regional level and with the global economy. It will improve the access of firms to competitive goods and services which, in turn, will increase their own competitiveness."
The CARIFORUM-EU EPA’s establishment was facilitated through the 2000 signing of the Cotonou Agreement, which replaced four successive Lome accords. The facility puts in place a comprehensive framework for ACP-EU relations, centered on economic development, the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty, and the smooth and gradual integration of ACP states into the global economy. With a view to achieving these objectives, the Cotonou Agreement makes provision for the ACP and EU to engage in World Trade Organization (WTO) compatible trading arrangements.
In this vein, Article 36 of the Cotonou Agreement commits the Parties to conclude new WTO compatible trading arrangements, removing, progressively, barriers to trade between them, including tariff rates, and enhancing co-operation in all areas relevant to trade. The European Union has provided considerable funding to Caribbean territories to support the EPA's implementation and aid their reform programmes.
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