EPA Partners to Strengthen Co-operation in Customs and Trade Facilitation


Under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between Europe and Caribbean Forum (CARIFORUM) states, the parties have agreed to reinforce co-operation in the area of customs and trade facilitation.
This is with a view to ensuring that the relevant legislation and procedures, as well as the administrative capacity of the relevant administrations, fulfill the objectives of effective control and the promotion of trade facilitation, and help promote the development and regional integration of CARIFORUM states.
The relevant section of the agreement is in recognition of the importance of customs and trade facilitation in the evolving global trading environment and in the development of intra-CARIFORUM trade and trade between the EPA partners.
CARIFORUM states, which are part of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) countries, have agreed to exchange information concerning customs; develop joint initiatives in mutually agreed areas; establish wherever possible, common positions in international organisations in the field of customs, such as the World Trade Organisation (WTO) and the World Customs Organization (WCO); and promote co-ordination among related agencies.
The parties have also consented to provide mutual administrative assistance in customs matters, in accordance with the provisions of Protocol II of the agreement.
As it relates to the respective trade and customs legislation, provisions and procedures will be based upon the need to protect and facilitate trade through enforcement of and compliance with legislative requirements and the need to provide for additional facilitation for traders with a high level of compliance.
Such procedures will also encompass the need to ensure that requirements for economic operators are reasonable, non-discriminatory, safeguard against fraud and do not lead to the application of excessive penalties for minor breaches of customs regulations or procedural requirements.
In order to improve working methods, as well as to ensure non-discrimination, transparency, efficiency, integrity and accountability of operations, the parties have agreed to take further steps toward the reduction, simplification and standardisation of data and documentation; simplify requirements and formalities wherever possible, in respect of the rapid release and clearance of goods; and provide effective, prompt, non-discriminatory and easily accessible procedures to enable the right of appeal against customs administrative actions, rulings and decisions affecting imports, exports or goods in transit.
To ensure transparency, a system of binding rulings on customs matters is to be established, particularly on tariff classification and rules of origin, in accordance with rules laid down in the respective legislation of the signatories.
Transparent and non-discriminatory rules are to be applied in respect of the licensing of customs brokers, as well as on the non-requirement for the mandatory use of independent customs brokers; while systems, such as those based on information technology, must be progressively developed in order to facilitate the electronic exchange of data among traders, customs administrations, and related agencies.
On the benefits of the EPA, Prime Minister Bruce Golding said it would provide access to a market of 490 million people with Gross Domestic Product and per capita income of US$13 trillion and US$30,000, respectively.
The Prime Minister emphasized that securing a few of those niches could provide a springboard for real sustainable economic growth and development.
The fundamental principles and objectives of the EPA are defined by the Cotonou Agreement, which has replaced Lom

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