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PM again bats for EPA signed with Europe

Jamaica Observer, Jamaica

PM again bats for EPA signed with Europe

3 May 2008

Prime Minister Bruce Golding has again sought to allay fears that CARIFORUM countries may have given up more than they will gain from the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) with the European Union.

Golding said the one-way preferential arrangement that existed under Lome could not continue indefinitely as it contravened World Trade Organization (WTO) rules.

Producers and exporters, he said, could now access a market of 450 million persons with a per-capita income of approximately US$17,000.

He was speaking yesterday at an EPA familiarisation seminar for attorneys, hosted by the law firm DunnCox.

According to the prime minister, the negotiators had also sought the inclusion of a stratified timeline for reciprocal duty-free and quota-free access of goods and services between Europe and the region. This, he said, should give manufacturers enough time to adjust to dealing with tariff-free competition.

He said the EPA also offered protection against unfair trading practices which can also be accessed under the WTO.

Golding said concerns that the agreement was hastily concluded were unfounded as, after a seven-year period in which the region should have arrived at a successor arrangement to the Cotonou Agreement, much of the negotiations for the EPA were actually done in the last three months before the deadline. He said if the EPA had not been concluded, exports from CARIFORUM countries (Caricom countries and the Dominican Republic) into Europe would have been subjected to the general system of preference under which import duties would apply. The duties, he said, would have effectively made local exports to Europe uncompetitive.