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Industry, Commerce and Investment Minister Karl Samuda, is to set up and lead a trade mission of public and private sector partners to Europe, to seek out business opportunities under the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA) and to establish linkages with potential investors, including European investment banks.
Prime Minister Bruce Golding made the disclosure on Friday (Feb. 1) at an EPA workshop put on by the Office of the Prime Minister, to sensitize the private sector about the provisions of the agreement between the European Union and CARIFORUM.
Mr. Golding said penetrating the EU market of 450 million persons would involve identifying niches as well as improving levels of productivity and efficiency of local manufacturers. He said opportunities also existed for European investment into Jamaica, adding that local producers could seek out partnership arrangements with their counterparts in Europe. These investors could take advantage of the duty free and quota free access into Europe, while creating employment opportunities for Jamaicans.
The Prime Minister said the power of Brand Jamaica in the international marketplace should not be discounted. He said further that with marketing being a major problem for the country, a joint marketing initiative between the government and the private sector, facilitated through Jamaica Trade and Invest, could effectively and efficiently promote Jamaican products and services abroad.
Mr. Golding stressed that ultimately Jamaican producers would have to improve their competitiveness to take advantage of new and existing opportunities. He stressed that geopolitical considerations could no longer be used as leverage, as a number of countries whose borders were previously closed, had been opened up for investment.
He said the provisions under the EPA provide for between four and 25 years before quota and duty free status is granted to some European exports to Jamaica. He said local manufacturers and producers therefore have enough time to adjust. He cited labour productivity and reliable energy supply as two areas that were in need of urgent attention if Jamaica is to improve its competitive advantage.
On the matter of labour productivity, Mr. Golding said the government was considering several initiatives which would be presented in the 2008/09 budget. He said alternative sources of energy were also being sought to reduce the country’s dependency on any one source.
The European Partnership Agreement was concluded between the European Union and CARIFORUM in December 2007 and is a successor to the trade provisions of the Cotonou Agreement which was entered into following the end of the fourth Lome Agreement. The EPA makes provision for duty and quota free access of Jamaican goods into the European market, except for sugar and rice. Services providers such as entertainers, can also access up to 90 per cent of the European market for their services.
The agreement also provides for reciprocal investment into and out of Europe, trade facilitation and protection of intellectual property. European producers and manufacturers will also have tariff and quota free access to CARIFORUM markets on a phased based lasting up to 25 years on some goods and services. Some products including agricultural produce, are permanently excluded from being imported into our local markets.
Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs, Kenneth Baugh who gave the welcome and opening remarks, told the participants that the EPA constitutes a new territory which, if effectively implemented, would provide opportunities for enhanced development.
Presenters at the one-day workshop included Ambassador Richard Bernal of the Caribbean Regional Negotiating Machinery (CRNM), Ambassador Lorne McDonnough, Under Secretary for Foreign Trade in the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Marjorie Kennedy, President of the Exporters Association and Ryan Peralto of the Jamaica Manufacturers Association. The presenters gave an overview of the EPA and outlined its key provisions, challenges and implications. The workshop was attended by several government Ministers and several private sector representatives.