Parliamentary delegations of the CARIFORUM States Legislatures and the European Parliament have called for strengthened relations between Cariforum and the European Union (EU) under its Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).

The call was made at a joint EU-Cariforum Parliamentary Committee two-day meeting held in Trinidad and Tobago, which ended on Wednesday.

The Meeting served as an important occasion for both Cariforum and the EU to affirm their resolve to renew, strengthen and mainstream the engagement of Parliamentary representatives in the operation of the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA). The EPA aims to promote EU-CARIFORUM trade – and ultimately contribute, through trade and investment, to sustainable development and poverty reduction within the region.

According to Boleslaw Piecha, Chair of the European Parliament’s delegation to the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee, the meeting served as another opportunity to work at regaining momentum in the implementation of all areas of the economic agreement.

Chair of the CARIFORUM Parliamentary Committee, Trinidad and Tobago’s Trade and Industry Minister, Paula Gopee-Scoon, called on visiting EU parliamentary members to influence the EU Commission in adopting a more flexible approach considering the challenges which CARIFORUM countries face. Minister Gopee-Scoon referred to the first review of the EPA noting that market penetration for regional companies to the EU has been very difficult.

“There must be a more flexible approach in dealing with sensitive issues which Cariforum countries face especially in this time of difficult economic conditions and with the physical devastation caused by our vulnerability to natural disasters,” the Trade Minister said

St. Vincent and the Grenadines’ representative at the two-day meeting, Senator Carlos James, identified implementation challenges as one of the key factors hindering the effective operation of the economic agreement. According to Senator James, regulatory and policy changes must be implemented across member states of both Cariforum and the EU.

Senator James noted that while focus is placed on making the Economic Partnership Agreement work, we must consider the myriad of challenges faced by Cariforum States which encumbered the ability of the region’s private sector to fully convert the market access offered by the EPA into meaningful market presence.

“We are required to bear the cost of implementing the obligations assumed as parties to the Agreement, but due to our vulnerabilities as Small Island States we are unable to effectively undertake capacity development to increase exports to the EU … despite a few success stories, the five year review of EPA is highlighting significant challenges regarding our exports to the EU market,” Senator James highlighted.

The meeting of the CARIFORUM-EU Parliamentary Committee was instrumental in revitalizing and deepening the Committee’s contribution to the effective operations of the EPA. The delegation jointly called on the Joint Council of the CARIFORUM-EU Trade and Development Committee to increase collaborative approaches in addressing CARIFORUM concerns pertaining to greater market access and presence to the EU.

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