Antigua Observer, Antigua
EU bemoans pace of EPA implementation
By Carol Williams
31 March 2012
St. John’s Antigua- The European Union (EU) representative to the region on Thursday pulled no punches as he criticised regional governments and the private sector for moving slowly to give effect to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) that was signed more than three years ago.
Ambassador Valeriano Diaz, Head of the EU Delegation to Barbados and the Eastern Caribbean said CARIFORUM (Caricom countries and the Dominican Republic) rather than the EU must “take ownership” of the economic and trade pact that Antigua & Barbuda and other member countries signed onto.
“Let me make it clear that the EU has not abandoned the Caribbean,” he stressed during a regional media launch in Barbados.
“Let me state clearly that ownership of the EPA in the Caribbean does not belong to the European Union; it is the purview of the regional governments. They have to ensure that the legislative and other frameworks are in place so that the private sector, entrepreneurs and others can reap the benefits which the EPA offers.”
Ambassador Diaz urged the regional private sector to stop “standing passively on the sidelines” and be more proactive in seeking information on the EPA.
“It is perplexing, to say the least, when I hear via the media, some business persons lamenting that they do not know much about the EPA. We live in the information age and given the time since the signature of the agreement, this kind of defeatist attitude is difficult to understand,” he said.
Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Trade Ambassador Colin Murdoch told OBSERVER Media that countries are at different stages of implementing the agreement, with the Dominican Republic apparently at a more advanced stage.
“I think we need to be aware of the tremendous amount of work that needs to be done,” he noted.
From the onset of the arrangement, the EU set aside 165 million euros to assist Antigua & Barbuda and others states in implementing the economic and trade pact that gives access to the EU market of around 500 million people.