EPA Agreement reached
The long awaited Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), between Europe and some Caribbean countries has been settled.
The negotiations were concluded on the weekend just ahead of the December 31 deadline for the completion of the talks.
The World Trade Organisation (WTO) forced the EU and African Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries to begin discussions on the new set of agreements as of January 1, to govern trade and aid relations between the two groups.
CARIFORUM which comprises countries in CARICOM and the Dominican Republic have been able to meet the deadline for the conclusion of the negotiations.
However, the parties were able to settle the troubling issue of the Caribbean\'s access to Europe\'s entertainment services market which had threatened to prevent the completion of the EPA.
Director General of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery, Ambassador Richard Bernal, said the comprehensive trade agreement covers goods, services, investments and policies related to competition and government procurement.
Without a deal, many of the ACP countries faced the prospect of immediately higher EU tariffs on their exports to Europe.
Last Tuesday, Jamaica’s Prime Minister Bruce Golding warned that US$72 million in higher duties into Europe could be added to exporters’ bills, if the EPA was not signed by year end.
Ambassador Bernal indicated that under the agreement liberalisation of Caribbean markets will take place on a phased basis with some goods including agricultural products being excluded.
The EPA will replace the Cotonou Agreement under which ACP countries received non-reciprocal access to European markets.