JIS News

CARIFORUM countries must remain vigilant to ensure that the European Union (EU) adheres to the commitments made to the agricultural sector, under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA).
This advice was given by Least Developed Countries (LDC) Trade Policy/Technical Advisor for the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery, Vincent Atkins, at a forum on the Agreement and its implications for the agricultural sector, at the Knutsford Court Hotel, yesterday (June 16).
“The onus lies on us as CARIFORUM countries, as farmers, as persons with an interest in agriculture, to ensure that the EU sticks to the commitments made in this agreement. We therefore must remain vigilant to ensure that our interests are protected,” he emphasized.
Mr. Atkins pointed out that, the negotiators of the agreement had made allowance for CARIFORUM countries to protect those interests, by including in the agreement, an article which speaks to the need for the EU to take into account, the concerns of CARIFORUM countries.
He cited the article on development co-operation in the agreement, which he said is necessary, because the ability of CARIFORUM countries to take advantage of the market access opportunities under the EPA, depends on the extent to which member countries are able to transform agriculture in the CARIFORUM sub-region.
Mr. Atkins pointed to the Regional Transformation Programme for Agriculture, and the Jagdeo Initiative, as among several initiatives which have been taken regionally to transform the sector.
“Unless we address the supply side to agriculture.unless we address the ability of our farmers to produce, to transport, to market agricultural commodities, no amount of market access under this arrangement, will make any difference to farmers and agricultural producers in the region, so that while the market access element is in itself significant, and must be applauded, equally important are the commitments made in this agreement to transform the agricultural sector,” he said.
Mr. Atkins explained that separate from the commitments made by the EU, the CARIFORUM members states, among themselves, have committed to transform the sector, through the adoption of the proper legislation, and the appropriate infrastructure, in order to make agriculture viable. “Our member states have committed themselves to doing what is necessary to transform the agricultural sector, which would in the end, enable us to take advantage of the external market,” he said.
On December 15, 2007, the European Commission and CARIFORUM countries initiated an EPA, which is a comprehensive free trade agreement, encompassing goods, services, investment, government procurement, and intellectual property rights. The EU has already given approval for CARIFORUM goods to enter its market on a duty free, quota free basis as of January 1 of this year. This excludes sugar, which will enjoy these benefits as of 2009.
The forum was hosted by the Ministry of Agriculture, in collaboration with the Inter-American Institute for Co-operation on Agriculture (IICA), Jamaica Producers Group, CB Chicken and Tru-Juice.