JIS News

Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Dr. Kenneth Baugh, has said that the United Kingdom (UK)-Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Forum is important for the region, as the UK could be a strong ally for CARICOM.
“The main thrust of our relationship is through the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and the UK and some other members in Europe we can regard as colleagues, people who are on our side because of our long standing historical relationship, and so we use them to lobby for us on certain issues that are difficult to resolve, even with the EPA, but more so at the level at the World Trade Organization (WTO),” Mr. Baugh said.
He was speaking with JIS News in London, following the end of the sixth UK-CARICOM Forum this week.
Dr. Baugh said the support of countries like the UK and Spain was important, because decisions taken at the WTO could affect arrangements reached for the EPA.
“The decisions taken there (at the WTO) is going to affect things that we have agreed on within the EPA, such as the longstanding preferences that we have enjoyed, because of our relationship within the Commonwealth and as members of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) states, in our relationship with Europe,” he said.
The Minister added that if the WTO gives in to the removal of the region’s preferential arrangements, this would have a serious economic and social impact.
“If the WTO gives in to some of the countries that are lobbying for the tariffs to be completely removed and if these tariffs are completely removed, then we are thrown into competition with countries which have greater advantages, because of greater economies of scale, because of the size of their industries, because of subsidies and because of other advantages that they have,” Dr. Baugh said.
“It will take time for small territories like the countries of the Caribbean to be able to adjust, in terms of developing their industries, developing alternatives for employment for people before we can give into measures that are going to severely affect issues like bananas and sugar,” the Minister continued.
Dr. Baugh said the bilateral talks during the UK-CARICOM Forum and last week’s similar talks in the Spain-CARICOM Forum were both “encouraging,” as the region was able to meet with the important Ministers, business people and investors. He said CARICOM was seeking the support of the UK and Spain in terms of the implementation of the EPA.
“The advantage of the EPA is the dimension that deals with development, which requires the building up of capacity in our countries, the modernising of capacity and building up new capacities, especially with reference to our primary products and raw materials and how we can use them to add value by creating finished products. But we need technology, so we are looking for partners, we are looking for investors from the UK and Spain, and support to encourage that facility to be activated in terms of financing for development and for technical support, to allow us the time to adjust to the changes that will come with the EPA,” the Minister explained.

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