By Julie Carrington
BRIDGETOWN, Barbados (BGIS) -- Despite numerous seminars on the benefits of the Economic Partnership Agreement (EPA), a government minister is calling for a fresh approach to pursuing business ventures outside of Barbados.
Minister of Foreign Affairs and Foreign Trade, Senator Maxine McClean
Minister of foreign affairs and foreign trade, Senator Maxine McClean, made this observation on Monday, while responding to a question posed by a participant attending the Cave Hill School of Business’ breakfast roundtable under the theme: Global Competitiveness: Prospects for the Future.
She said despite this there were a number of factors that have led to inaction thus far.
McClean explained that the EPA was forged between the European Union and CARIFORUM (CARICOM plus the Dominican Republic) and not with the Caribbean Community (CARICOM). As a result, the foreign minister admitted that “we have had difficult times in making that marriage” between CARICOM and the Dominican Republic work.
She also pointed out that the EPA came at the time just prior to the start of the global economic crisis and as a result, the circumstances of the European countries had changed dramatically, and this might have led to a rethinking of the EPA.
McClean added: “…They are saying now that we have to justify to our taxpayers, the availability of resources and that has given rise to some changes. I think that where the resources were made available to governments in the region, part of the challenge we had was the mechanism for access to that was probably made difficult. But, we have been working to utilise those resources.”
However, McClean said, over the years, measures were put in place to make it easier for businesses to access and take advantage of the agreement, and she commended the Caribbean Export Development Agency for its work in assisting companies in benefiting from it.
Meanwhile, guest speaker, Professor Avinash Persaud, said the private sector had failed to take advantage of the opportunities and floated the idea that the region had negotiated too “good a deal”.
“We gave ourselves too much time and as a result, let me be frank; the private sector has failed us. The private sector was given tremendous opportunities on the EPA, but it requires them to invest and for some reason, our private sector is happy to wait to be forced,” he added.
Persaud further stated: “The EPA basically provides us unprecedented access whilst stopping the Europeans having preferred access for a certain length of time. That length of time has almost run out and what have we done with that time? Very little. So, I think we negotiated too good a deal because we somehow need to force the private sector to be internationally competitive and not hoping that they will always find a way of protecting themselves.”