Awareness of what the European Union Economic Partnership Agreement requires and what it has, to offer is the greatest challenge towards to implementation, says Ms. Sonia Allyson Francis, Trade in Services & Investment Specialists of the EPA Implementation unit of the CARICOM Secretariat.
Ms. Francis was speaking at a regional media sensitization workshop on the status of implementation of the EPA which was signed to by most CARIFORUM states in 2008, but yet to be implemented by all but two – Guyana and St. Kitts.
“Persons aren’t able to key-in in terms are what are their actual development cooperation needs and that’s why we have a delay in implementing the services and investment aspect of the agreement.”
She said there is a need for businesses in member states to be able to understand the regulations they need to meet in order to take advantage of the Agreement and to know what are some of the priority markets they are interested in tapping into in Europe.
Francis said the EPA unit has expressed its willingness to do the necessary market research for the regional businesses but have not had as much request for such services as they had hoped. They have however done research in a number of Professional Services areas such as architects, accounts, engineers and management consultants. These studies were conducted in some of the European countries such as Malta, Estonia, Spain, Italy, France and Germany.
The Trade & Investment specialist is encouraging the businesses to take advantage of the services of the EPA Unit at the CARICOM Secretariat adding that they “must use the implementation of the agreement to help… in[the] development in the different sectors which [the region has] committed to in the EPA.”
Francis said, “EPA should not be the ceiling. Our regional integration is the ceiling and EPA is anything else below.”
She has also listed the absence of tax treaties, foreign exchange controls, language barriers, ignorance of cultural norms, customs and values, and the cost of travel as some of the other challenges to the implementation of the European Partnership Agreement (EPA).