Georgetown, GINA, June 16, 2015
The Foreign Affairs Ministry is moving to ensure Guyana is able to derive full benefits from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), signed between the 15 CARIFORUM countries and the European Union (EU).
The trade agreement which accounts for the second largest amount of trade between the Caribbean region and EU member states, behind the United States of America, accounted for almost $10 billion Euros in 2014. Guyana has not yet utilised its full benefits from the being a signatory to the trade agreement whilst the EU has been able to capitalise on the accord, as was initially expected, according to Foreign Minister Carl Greenidge, who said that, “this situation has to change”.
As an element of the EPA, the Caribbean has committed itself to opening part of its market in a phased manner, and Minister Greenidge recently noted that it is an obligation that Guyana and the Caribbean have, “and we are not going to get out of, no matter what people try to tell the public, we have to ensure that the benefits on the other side, which the EU has been obligated to provide to us, are fully exploited.”
He opined that one of the sad things about the region is that it has found itself, over and over again, in situations where it sometimes participates in agreements because they are popular. “In the course of that type of approach, we have lost out.”
He added that in the case of the EPA, the region is in danger of losing out in the benefits of the agreement. “Having given the concessions, we have not sought in any systemic manner to take advantage of the benefits that are associated in the agreements across the board. I hope that one of Guyana’s contributions to this exercise would be to make sure that, for example, something much touted during the course of the negotiation, for example, would be the sale of services, which Guyana foolishly sought to stop in the end.”
Foreign Minister Greenidge said that although a study, undertaken by USAID on behalf of Guyana, showed that the country did have the potential to benefit significantly from enhanced sale of services, or export of services, to EU, a great deal hasn’t been done about this.
“The question of artistes, multi-media development, professional services, architecture, and the likes, the basic things have not been done, where we are supposed to at the national level, bring together these professions, make sure that there are rules governing their performance domestically, make sure that the standards of mutual recognition agreements whereby, if you say you are an architect or a dentist in Guyana someone in Trinidad knows what standard of work you can deliver.” These standards would apply across the Caribbean, he explained.
A regional approach to resolve this issue was touted by, Minister Greenidge who noted that once this has been achieved each of those professions or disciplines can now approach the EU.
For Minister Greenidge, the EPA has many benefits, but measures must be taken to ensure that the signatory countries within the region benefit from it. “All trade agreements have onerous burdens, but since you’ve signed it, the least you can do is make sure you get the benefits. I find the region’s approach to these things sometimes quite bewildering, we have given concessions and we must get the benefits from them, EPA is one”.
The EU’s trade and development partnership with the Caribbean stretches back over more than 30 years. The CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement or EPA is the latest partnership which CARIFORUM – a group of 15 Caribbean countries – and the EU signed in 2008. The agreement which comes with substantial EU aid for trade is aimed to make it easier for people and businesses from the two regions to invest in and trade with each other, and thus help Caribbean countries grow their economies and create jobs.