Caribbean Coordinator for the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), Percival Marie said recently concluded monitoring and evaluation shows that much more needs to be done to take advantage of European Union (EU) markets.
“To put it diplomatically, the major conclusion was that the Caribbean has not yet been able to convert market access even in EPA into market presence in the European Union,” said Marie who is also the Director General of the Caribbean Forum of the African, Caribbean and Pacific States (ACP). He was Wednesday addressing the National Bipartite Meeting on Challenges to Cariforum Labour, Private Sector and Employers to fulfill their EPA obligations.
The Caribbean signed the EPA with Europe in October 2008 with the aim of taking advantage of huge aid for trade opportunities.
While acknowledging that benefits from the EPA were yet to flow to the Caribbean, he suggested that the region replicate instances of success in taking advantage of the EU market.
“There are anecdotal examples of benefits that have been obtained and so we are optimistic that the potential is there if we organise ourselves properly for us to take advantage of the opportunities that are created by the establishment and operation of the Economic Partnership Agreement,” he said.
Marie said initially the monitoring and evaluation system did not focus on the social aspects, but the Caribbean has since stressed the need for employers, the private sector and labour are being involved.
“Having fought for it, we cannot now simply consign it to something that is a formal part of an agreement without taking active action to ensure that the intent of the agreement is implemented,” he added.
Marie urged civil society and social partners to take advantage of monies available from a 346 million Euro Caribbean Regional Indicative Programme under the 11th European Development Fund for beefing up capacity building. He said most of the cash would go towards EPA implementation.
The EU has said rules on competition policy and intellectual property were yet to be put in place by the Caribbean so that this region could take advantage of European markets.
Cariforum is made up of the 14 independent Caribbean Community (Caricom) member states and the Spanish-speaking Dominican Republic.