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JIS News

An overview of the recently concluded Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) between the European Union (EU) and CARIFORUM was on (Tuesday Dec. 18) presented to Parliament by Prime Minister Bruce Golding. In his statement, Mr. Golding said the agreement which covers trade in goods and services, investments and provides for development assistance for capacity building will come into effect on January 1, 2008.
Mr. Golding said that under the reciprocal agreement, CARICOM exports will enjoy duty and quota-free access to the markets of EU member countries. He said CARICOM countries were not immediately required to provided equal access to EU exports as the region had secured an ‘exclusion list’ representing 13 per cent of current imports which are available locally. “On this list are sensitive items produced locally on which we will continue to impose tariffs in order to protect local producers,” Mr. Golding said.
He said the region had also secured an extended period of between five to twenty-five 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.
Mr. Golding said the region was only able to secure 60,000 of an additional quota of 160,000 tons of sugar exports from the region to the EU. He said 30,000 would go to the Dominican Republic and the remainder shared among CARICOM sugar producing countries. He acknowledged that with the quota-based sugar protocol already scheduled to come to an end in September 2009, the situation regarding that commodity and also exports of banana and rice, pose significant challenges for the region. He said that with the phasing out of these preferential arrangements, our prospects in these industries will largely depend on efficiency of production and competitive pricing.
Prime Minister Golding noted that while Jamaica and the region did not get all they asked for, the reality is that this is never possible in any negotiation. He stressed that the EPA Agreement provides 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. He added that securing a few of those niches could provide a springboard for real sustainable economic growth and development.
A simplified version of the EPA agreement will be made available to the public once all the final processes have been completed.