JIS News

The House of Representatives yesterday (Sept. 2), approved a resolution endorsing the decision of the Government, to affix its signature to the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), which was negotiated between CARIFORUM states and the European Union (EU).
Prime Minister, Bruce Golding, during his contribution to the debate, stated that with the EPA, CARIFORUM countries have regained the market that they were in danger of losing.
“The challenge to us is to make use of that market. We have not made use of it before, (we need to) make use of it now. We have avoided the application of tariffs, which would have made exports to many of them uncompetitive, unmarketable, I am saying let us rejoice in it,” Mr. Golding said.
“We have secured access for our service providers, which they didn’t have before, let us make use of it. We have secured the opportunity for development assistance, we must make use of it,” he added.
Mr. Golding also stated that the EPA “forces us to develop our international competitiveness that enables us to penetrate not just in European market but the wider global market.”
“If the concern is that we have sold out our patrimony, so that even in Government procurement, we are going to have Europeans coming to box food out of our mouth, then I say let not your heart be troubled,” Mr. Golding said.
In relation to the liberalisation of Government procurement, the Prime Minister said “we gave an undertaking to use our best endeavours to examine the matter.we have given no commitment to market access to liberalising Government procurement,” Mr. Golding stressed.
Meanwhile, Opposition Spokesperson on Foreign Trade, Anthony Hylton, noted that the ‘Most Favoured Nation’ (MFN) clause in the EPA, will make “Jamaica and other CARIFORUM countries less attractive to third countries that would otherwise have had an interest in entering into trade arrangements with us.”
“This is a dangerously different MFN provision from any MFN provision in other trade agreements,” Mr. Hylton said.
In his response, Mr. Golding said the core principles of the World Trade Organisation (WTO) Agreement and the General Agreement on Trade and Tariffs (GATT) is the “MFN treatment.”
“It is the core principle not just of GATT but it is the core principle of virtually every trade agreement. Virtually every agreement says if we agree to do this together then you cannot go behind our backs and go and do something better with somebody else. It is a standard agreement in all trade agreements,” Mr. Golding explained.
The EPA covers trade in goods and services, investments and provides for development assistance for capacity building came into effect on January 1, 2008.
Under the reciprocal agreement, CARIFORUM exports will enjoy duty and quota-free access to the markets of EU member countries. CARIFORUM countries are not immediately required to provide equal access to EU exports, as the region has secured an ‘exclusion list’, representing 13 per cent of current imports which are available locally.
The region also secured an extended period of between five to 25 years, before tariffs would have to be removed from remaining imports. Existing tariffs will remain in place for up to three years and thereafter, will be gradually removed over a 22 year period.
This will allow countries in the region to undertake the necessary fiscal adjustments, to recover revenues lost in the removal of tariffs through domestic taxes.
The EPA Agreement, provides access to a market of 490 million people with Gross Domestic Product (GDP) and per capita income of US$13 trillion and US$30,000 respectively.