KINGSTOWN, St Vincent -- St Vincent and the Grenadines is poised to make greater strides in the implementation of the Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific States (CARIFORUM)-European Union (EU) Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), building on progress made to date.
These were the sentiments of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ minister of foreign affairs, foreign trade and consumer affairs, Dr Douglas Slater, who delivered the keynote address at the opening of a three-day national EPA implementation plan meeting in Kingstown on March 11.
A cross-section of national public and private sector representatives with a stake in the implementation of the EPA in that country were on hand. The meeting marked the formal launch of the consultative process of developing a national EPA implementation plan, while providing the opportunity for a first engagement of stakeholders with the consultant who is responsible for crafting the Implementation Plan.
In addition to St Vincent and the Grenadines, consultants are developing (and, in some cases, have already developed) implementation plans -- on an as needs basis -- for the following CARIFORUM states: Antigua and Barbuda, Belize, The Bahamas, Dominica, Grenada and Saint Lucia.
Respective national EPA implementation units and like entities, which are responsible for coordinating the implementation of the agreement in states, feature prominently in the various efforts to devise national EPA implementation plans. The EPA Implementation Unit within the CARIFORUM Directorate of the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat is integrally involved. So, too, is the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).
The implementation plans initiative is funded under the Caribbean Aid for Trade and Regional Integration Trust Fund (CARTFund), and is informed by the view that in as much as the draft EPA regional implementation road map facilitates the implementation of the agreement, it only identifies the broad actions (chronologically) to be taken at the national and regional levels. It is envisaged, therefore, that national EPA implementation units and like entities would utilize the high level road map document to develop their own implementable national EPA implementation plans.
To promote buy-in from a range of stakeholders, the process of preparing the national EPA implementation plans is participatory. At the end of the implementation plans development process, stakeholders should have developed a clear understanding of the importance of the EPA to achieving national and regional development objectives, their roles in the EPA implementation process, the specific actions to be implemented, and the resources required for implementation.
Although CARIFORUM states have made progress with respect to EPA implementation, concerns remain about the extent of involvement of the private sector. Indeed at the recently concluded national EPA implementation plan meeting in St Vincent and the Grenadines, Slater encouraged the national private sector to be more involved in EPA implementation and to decisively take advantage of the opportunities provided by the EPA.
The project manager of the St Vincent and the Grenadines EPA Implementation Unit, Okolo John-Patrick, noted that, while well attended, last week’s national EPA implementation plan meeting did not have the showing that the unit was hoping for from the private sector.
In commenting on the steps that are to unfold in the development of St Vincent and the Grenadines’ national EPA implementation plan, John-Patrick indicated that “the consultant responsible for developing the plan will continue to engage the national EPA implementation unit and representatives of relevant government ministries and private sector entities, where necessary convening meetings, aimed at reaching consensus on the elements of the national EPA implementation plan. We anticipate that a draft of the plan will be presented shortly.”
She went on to note, “Revisions will be made to the draft by the consultant, based on feedback obtained from relevant stakeholders, and on that basis the finalized national EPA implementation plan will be prepared and submitted to us.”
The fifteen signatory Caribbean Forum of African, Caribbean and Pacific (CARIFORUM) states to the EPA are the independent CARICOM member states and the Dominican Republic.