The St Kitts-Nevis government is seeking an extension in implementing certain measures under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) countries signed with Europe in 2008, Prime Minister Dr Denzil Douglas has said.
In an interview broadcast on Winn FM radio, Douglas said the twin-island federation would be approaching the European authorities on the issue.
CARIFORUM, which includes the 15-member Caribbean Community grouping and the Dominica Republic, signed the accord that allows for the removal of tariffs and import duties on goods traded between European and CARIFORUM countries.
St Kitts and Nevis is among eight Caribbean countries that have not yet removed tariffs from goods coming into the country from the European Union under the agreement.
"We would always be mindful of our international obligations and in bilateral and multilateral situations involving the EPA," Douglas said. He added, "What I would say is that before we can just simply and dramatically hurt ourselves, the appropriate economic analysis will have to be done."
International Trade, Industry and Commerce Minister Dr Timothy Harris said recently that the government would have to deal with the loss of revenue as a result of the removal of the tariffs.
"Naturally, we would be very concerned about the loss of revenue from the tariff that we would normally collect, and we make sure as we implement these we find other ways to make up the shortfall in revenue," Douglas said.
"We just can't say we doing it and hurt ourselves without knowing how we are going to have the appropriate corrective measures introduced," he said, adding that he did not contemplate introducing any new taxes to make up the shortfall.
"What we have to do is to plug leakages," the prime minister said. "One of the areas we have to look at is the concessions, for example. We have been giving a lot of concessions ... and we can't go on with this at all."
With the exception of the Caribbean, six other regional blocs in the African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group have yet to conclude full regional EPAs since discussions began in 2002. Countries have called for the resolution of various "contentious issues" before signing.
Issues of concern include the 15-year time frame before ACP markets must be opened up to free trade with Europe, the extent of goods and services to be liberalised, rules and requirements for goods to enter Europe, and export taxes.