EPA Minister's Speech

ADDRESS BY THE MINISTER OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS, FOREIGN TRADE AND CONSUMER AFFAIRS,
HONOURABLE DR. DOUGLAS SLATER
AT THE ECONOMIC PARTNERSHIP AGREEMENT (EPA) WORKSHOP
ON TRADE IN SERVICES AND INVESTMENT, ON TUESDAY 27TH SEPTEMBER 2011.

It gives me great pleasure to address you at this EPA Workshop on Trade in Services and Investment.

I wish, first of all, to express the Government’s appreciation to the CARICOM EPA Implementation Unit for facilitating and making this Workshop possible.

Historically, CARICOM has enjoyed preferential market access to the European Union (EU) through the Lome and the Cotonou Agreements and presently the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).  The EPA, signed in  October 2008 between the EU and fifteen CARIFORUM States (CARICOM and the Dominican Republic) marked the beginning of a new chapter in CARICOM-EU trade relations, in that it introduced reciprocal preferential access for the EU into the markets of CARIFORUM States.

Among the objectives of the CARIFORUM-EU EPA, are that it should -

(1) Contribute to the reduction and eventual eradication of poverty through the establishment of a trade partnership consistent with the objectives of sustainable development, the Millennium Development Goals and the Cotonou Agreement;

(2) Promote the gradual integration of the CARIFORUM States into the world economy, in accordance with their political choices and development priorities and

3) Support the conditions for increasing investment and private sector initiative and enhancing supply capacity, competitiveness and economic growth in the CARIFORUM region.

The CARIFORUM-EU EPA has therefore been presented as a strategy to help developing countries of the CARIFORUM grouping to build larger markets, foster trade in goods and services and stimulate investments.  The EPA is expected to help CARIFORUM to export more, thereby increasing employment, business opportunities and economic growth, which can contribute to sustainable development.

The Agreement also includes a development component aimed at among other things capacity building in the CARIFORUM States, to assist them to improve their capacity to trade competitively.  This financial and non-financial development assistance is to be provided by the EU.

In order for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to take meaningful advantage of the EPA a dedicated EPA implementation Unit is required to assist with the coordination and implementation of the Agreement. In this regard St. Vincent and the Grenadines submitted a request for technical and financial assistance to establish the Unit.

In March  2011 the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CART Fund) administered by the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), financed by the UK Department for International Development (DFID) advised that the request by the Government of St. Vincent and the Grenadines was approved.  The Ministry is presently finalizing the contracts for the consultants who will be charged with coordinating the implementation of the EPA.  The EPA Unit is expected to build human and institutional capacity within the public sector as well as support the private sector to take full advantage of the opportunities under the CSME and the EPA. A Project Steering Committee (PSC) was established to provide policy advice and monitor overall implementation of the EPA.

The Ministry in the past has conducted similar Workshops.  In 2008 the Ministry in collaboration with the Hub and Spokes Project conducted a similar workshop on Trade in Services and Investment.  Presentations on the EPA were made to the Medical Association, Nurses, Tourism Sector and Cultural Artistes.  When the EPA Implementation Unit is up and running, which is scheduled for next month, it is envisaged that the coordination and implementation will heighten.

It should be noted that while trade in goods continues to play an important role in the economic development of St. Vincent and the Grenadines, trade in Services has contributed significantly to the GDP. Services account for over 70% of GDP and also provide employment for an increasing number of persons. Therefore, while market access for goods remains important greater attention will be paid to expanding opportunities for services exports in the context of our relations with the EU.   Therefore it is extremely critical for the government to work along with the private sector to further develop the private sector and to translate the market access provisions into meaningful access for Vincentian service providers.

In light of the importance of Services to the economic growth of St. Vincent and the Grenadines the Ministry in collaboration with the CARICOM EPA Implementation Unit is convening this sensitization workshop on Trade in Services and Investment today. The objectives of the workshop are:

  • To sensitize service providers about provisions of the EPA Agreement governing opportunities for trade in services and investment.
  • To highlight the conditions/requirements for accessing the European Community market with a view to increasing services exports from St. Vincent and the Grenadines.
  • To discuss St. Vincent and the Grenadines trading interest in Services with the European Community and the challenges face.
  • To discuss the modalities for possible mutual recognition of skills and qualifications between the European Community and CARIFORUM.

Finally, for St. Vincent and the Grenadines to successfully integrate into the world economy and multilateral trading system, it is clear that not only market access is required, but also broad-based financial assistance and technical cooperation to address structural deficiencies and supply side constraints.  In view of this St. Vincent and the Grenadines will continue to work along with the CARICOM Secretariat to maximize the use of available European Development Fund (EDF) resources and Aid for Trade to strengthen trade-related infrastructure, increase competitiveness and productivity and diversify our production base.

I wish you a very productive day and look forward to our continued collaboration with the private sector stakeholders and the CARICOM EPA Implementation Unit as we seek to further enhance the development of the services sector.Thank you for your attention.

 

Thank you for your attention.