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EU laments Jamaica's failure to maximise EPA benefits

Published:Thursday | October 23, 2014 | 12:00 AM

AMBASSADOR PAOLA Amadei, head of the delegation of the European Union to Jamaica, has chided the country and its business operators - manufacturers and exporters especially, for their continued failure to derive greater benefits from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) signed with the European Union (EU) in 2008 and which effectively granted free access to all goods from CARIFORUM countries, while allowing them gradual and controlled liberalisation over 25 years.

"We have seen in recent times a lot of media reports on the performance of Jamaica on the export market, considered less than satisfactory. According to STATIN (Statistical Institute of Jamaica) figures, exports have indeed seen a 14 per cent contraction in value over the past 12 months. In the context of a quite narrow domestic market, this trend in exports should clearly be reversed for the economy to be set on a sustainable growth path," Ambassador Amadei declared last week Wednesday at the handover of state-of-the-art equipment to the Bureau of Standards Jamaica.

"These results however, could not be imputed to lack of access to foreign markets. To the contrary, Jamaica benefits from free access to the CARICOM market, with the CSME (Caribbean Single Market Economy), from the Caribbean Basin Initiative, with the United States and from the PetroCaribe Trade Compensation Mechanism."

Non-tariff barriers

While noting that exports can be a substantial driver for growth, the ambassador warned that a depreciated currency and trade liberalisation alone, without preliminary strong conditions related to competitiveness, can hardly enhance business opportunities. What is necessary, she insisted, is to address the non-tariff barriers and, in the process, improve the environment for trade and investment.

The EU diplomat explained: "In Jamaica, in line with our EPA commitments, we are implementing the J$300 million (€2.25 million) EPA-I programme. We have started another $700 million (€5 million) EPA-II project where we will continue to working on SPS (sanitary and phytosanitary) matters and provide direct assistance to agribusiness. Trade-related assistance is also provided regionally to CARIFORUM countries, and two major productive sectors of Jamaica, the sugar and banana sectors, have received more than J$15 billion in support since 2008."

International trade

International trade has moved well beyond the import and export of goods to include global supply chains where more than half of world trade takes place between subsidiaries of multi-national companies. In addition, finance, telecommunications and retail services play an even bigger role in supporting other key sectors of the economy and where regional hubs can be used as springboards for international success. Jamaica must recognise and adapt to these changing dynamics in order to survive and succeed, according to Ambassador Amadei.

"Finding your place in these global networks and supply chains is the key to competitiveness. These are the facts and not to make use of the EPA or CARICOM would mean 'missing out opportunities'. The EPA is not about cutting customs duties on goods. The extent of these benefits will depend on how far governments want to go in promoting vibrant and innovative economic policies, in improving economic governance, and enhancing transparency, for example, in government procurement and dealing with behind-the-border issues," she warned.