EPA Seminar a ‘Resounding Success,’ participants say
March 16, 2012
EPA Seminar a ‘Resounding Success,’ participants say

The recently concluded Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Consultation Seminar on the CARIFORUM-EU Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) – Trade in Goods (with special reference to the technical areas of Rules of Origin, Agriculture and Market Access to the EU) has been hailed by participants as a “resounding success.”{{more}}

The one-day Seminar, held March 7, 2012, at the NIS Conference Room, was organized by the Saint Vincent and the Grenadines EPA Implementation Unit in collaboration with the CARICOM Secretariat-based EPA Implementation Unit. The consultation provided a clearer understanding of the benefits and challenges associated with harnessing the Agreement, with respect to Trade in Goods. The Consultation also formed a basis for deepening and expanding engagement between institutions with responsibility for facilitating the implementation of the EPA and those stakeholders involved in Trade in Goods sectors.

The Seminar brought together over 45 technocrats/experts and representatives of the public and private sectors (including industry groups and business support organisations), as well as representatives of organisations of civil society, including the academic community, and social and economic partners.

The morning sessions were taken up with presentations from CARICOM Secretariat experts (Branford Isaacs), followed by Nigel Durrant. Kathy John, Trade Facilitation Officer in the Ministry of Foreign Trade, explained how trade facilitation can enhance the potential benefits in the EPA. All three resource persons were engaged vigorously by participants.

Sessions in the afternoon saw the Chief Agricultural Officer, Reuben Robertson, provide the overall perspective of the agricultural industry, and he explained they have been putting in place measures to take advantage of the EPA. Ossie Davy shared the experiences and challenges of the East Caribbean Group of Companies (ECGC), with respect to the Agreement highlighting that in the context of the EU market ECGC is a small company and will not able to penetrate on its own, but that the Agreement will help. Jetro Greene highlighted the experiences of CaFAN and ECTAD. He was of the view that there are real opportunities to be had, spanning agricultural exports to strategic marketing. Renwick Rose provided an overview of civil society experiences, purporting that agriculture is a sustainable livelihood and we must “re-think” our engagement of the Sector.

While they noted that the Seminar had added to their EPA “tool kit,” there is a need for further sensitization-oriented, awareness building consultations. In this regard, it was felt that greater efforts are needed by relevant national authorities to engage stakeholders in a sector-specific, targeted manner.

On March 8 and 9, sensitization efforts continued, with training for Customs officials and the Management Team, respectively. Both activities were spearheaded by Isaacs.